11 candidates seek nomination for 7 seats on Mt. Pleasant Borough council
In the nomination race for seven available seats on Mt. Pleasant Borough Council in the May 21 primary election, 11 people — four incumbents, one board appointee and six challengers — have registered as candidates, according to unofficial records of the Westmoreland County Election Bureau.
One seat, with a four-year term, is up for grabs in the borough's 2nd Ward. Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Susan Ruszkowski is pitted against Democratic challenger Robert G. Storey. No Republicans are seeking nomination for that race.
Four Democrats will vie for the nomination to two, four-year seats representing the borough's 3rd Ward, including incumbent Councilman Fred McCloy and challengers John “Jack” Caruso Jr., Frank Pernelli and Paul L. Wagner. On the Republican ticket for the same 3rd Ward seats, Albert D. Beranek, a former borough councilman, is running unopposed for the GOP nomination.
Beranek, McCloy and Caruso also seek one two-year seat on the board, also representing the borough's 3rd Ward.
If one of the candidates is elected to both the two-year and four-year seats in November, he will be able to choose between which seat he wants to fill.
The race for two seats, both with four-year terms, on council representing the borough's 1st Ward involves Republican incumbents Councilman David Pritts and Councilwoman Cynthia Stevenson and Democratic challenger Don McHirella.
Since two seats are open to two nominees from each party, these three candidates will face-off on November's general election ballot.
Democratic Councilwoman Diane Bailey, appointed to council last June to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Beranek, is running unopposed for a two-year seat on the board representing the borough's 2nd Ward.
• McCloy, 66, who serves as council's vice president, is chairman of council's zoning and ordinances committee and he sits on the wastewater treatment and public safety committees, as well as the finance and human resources committee.
He was appointed to council in 2008 and he was elected to a four-year term in 2009.
McCloy established the borough's annual community yard sale in 2010 and, while serving as chairman of the sanitation committee that year, he started the borough's recycling program.
McCloy said he aims to help continue to keep the borough's budget in check.
“The council's going on eight or nine years now without a tax increase, and I'd like to see that careful spending continue, especially with the ways prices have gone up,” he said.
• Pritts, 44, is chairman of council's property committee and he sits on the wastewater treatment and streets committees, as well as serving on the zoning and ordinance committee.
He was appointed to council in 2010 and ran unopposed for a two-year term in 2011.
Pritts helped council develop a plan to install a welcome sign that greets borough-bound motorists along Route 31 on the borough's West End. He also helped acquire state funding for the installation of surveillance cameras for increased security about town.
He said he wants to help maintain the borough's tax base while keeping services up and furthering the development of other projects, such as installation of the Digital Veterans Memorial Wall at Veterans Park.
“To me, that wall is an investment in our community. In the end, I think it will be another shining example of the kinds of things Mt. Pleasant can accomplish,” he said.
• Ruszkowski, 61, is chairwoman of council's finance and human resources committee, and she sits the property and sanitation/recycling committees.
She was appointed to council in 2007 and later elected to the seat.
Ruszkowski said she's proud to have helped council avoid tax hikes while negotiating a contract with the borough police department in 2012 and installing a new healthcare program for full-time borough employees in 2011.
She said she wants to continue to help council ensure the provision of the borough's police, fire and emergency medical services.
“Whatever we need to do to maintain those services at their highest level, that's what I want to do,” Ruszkowski said.
• Stevenson, 62, is chairwoman of council's sanitation/recycling committee, and she sits on the parks and recreation committee as well as the community and economic development/grants committee.
Having been elected twice to council, Stevenson said she is proud the board has maintained services without raising taxes. She also helped start the borough recycling program.
She is also a founding member and president of the Mt. Pleasant Cat Committee, a member and past president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society and a member of the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum's board of directors.
Stevenson said she has no personal agenda when it comes to serving on council. She said she would like to get more businesses involved with recycling and establish a borough newsletter.
“From my perspective, we're doing a better job of communicating with the community as a council, and I'd like to further that,” she said.
• Bailey, 56, is chairwoman of council's community and economic development/grants committee, and she sits on the finance and human resources committee.
In July of 2011, she retired after more than 35 years spent working as fiscal manager at Mt. Pleasant Area School District, where she handled payroll, benefits and retirement for all district employees.
Bailey said she sought to serve on council to help her community and plans to continue trying to do that.
“My goal is to work toward making Mt. Pleasant a safer place for our families and a town where people want to come to be a resident, enhance the programs we already have, and keep us moving forward on a positive note,” she said.
• Beranek, 46, resigned from council in June after moving from the 2nd Ward to the 3rd Ward. Prior to that, he served six years on council and was the board's vice president.
He said he was instrumental in ascertaining council's approval to acquire Gerro, the borough's K-9 officer. He also helped to restructure Medic 10 from an all-volunteer agency to paid employee operation and sat on its board of directors.
Beranek said he aims to help council keep the tax base where it is without decreasing services.
“I want to be part of preserving Mt. Pleasant Borough's safe and small town atmosphere in which to raise our children and our children's children,” he said.
• Caruso, 53, the owner of Caruso's Service Plus in the borough, has a desire to give back to the community he calls home and a drive to improve council's communication with constituents, he said.
“The council is not letting the people of Mt. Pleasant have a voice, that's what it looks like to me,” said Caruso, whose family has lived in the 3rd Ward since 1897. “I'd like to change that.”
He added he would like to help establish informal meetings in which council members answer questions from residents of any of the three borough wards they represent.
• McHirella, 69, is a retired employee of the former Volkswagen plant and the state Department of Labor and Industry. He has been a resident, property owner and landlord in the 1st Ward for nearly 30 years.
He said he would like to help encourage police to crack down on speeding motorists in town and work to amend the borough residential rental property ordinance because he said it is “too intrusive and too costly.”
“The reason I am seeking a seat on council is because I believe the current leaders of Mt. Pleasant have governed in a way that has divided our community,” McHirella said. “I would like to serve on council to heal this division and move Mt. Pleasant forward.”
• Pernelli, 39, a physical therapist's assistant at Harmon House Care Center and a borough landlord, was also initially compelled to run for council based on his opposition to the rental ordinance, he said.
“This election is about more than just property rights, though, it's about serving Mt. Pleasant and I'm ready to serve,” Pernelli said.
He said he wants to help bring new, vital businesses to the borough and strengthen the borough's working relationship with Mt. Pleasant Township.
“That's a partnership I think has to be more active,” Pernelli said. “I also want to get some of these vacant buildings which aren't generating any tax dollars into the hands of businesses which can.”
• Storey, 56, a borough native who works as a drafter at Mobile Concepts by Scotty in East Huntingdon, applied for appointment to council to seat eventually awarded to Bailey.
He commends the borough for the work of its police and volunteer fire departments.
But Storey said many people he encounters in the borough have a problem with blighted public and private local properties and a dearth of healthy commerce.
“They'd like to see bigger businesses in Mt. Pleasant,” Storey said. “I'm going to council to represent the people who vote me in. I want to see this community thrive.”
If elected, Storey said his talents would be best put to use on the streets committee.
• Wagner, 47, a borough resident since 1971, works as an environmental health, safety and quality manager for Packaging Specialists LLC in Cheswick, Allegheny County.
As councilman, he wants to focus on improving the way the borough maintains its infrastructure and to keep public safety at a high standard, he said.
“My goals are to listen to the residents of the community. My belief is that any government's primary responsibility is securing the safety of residents, securing its borders and making sure the infrastructure is kept up to par with the times,” he said.
Wagner also pointed out the need to work more with Mt. Pleasant Area School District and surrounding municipalities to help make the borough a place children today want to call home in the future.
“I would just try to maintain and improve Mt. Pleasant and offer a fresh perspective,” he said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.