9 candidates seek 8 seats on Mt. Pleasant Council
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
In the race for eight seats on Mt. Pleasant Borough Council in the Nov. 5 general election, nine people — three incumbents, two appointees and four challengers — are registered as candidates, according to unofficial records of the Westmoreland County Election Bureau.
In the borough's 1st Ward, three candidates will vie for two open four-year seats: incumbents David Pritts, who won the Republican Party nomination, and Cynthia Stevenson, who won nominations from both parties, along with Democrat-nominated challenger Don McHirella.
One candidate is running unopposed for one open two-year seat in the 1st Ward: board appointee James M. Wojnar, who has no party affiliation, according to the county election bureau.
In Mt. Pleasant's 2nd Ward, incumbent Susan Ruszkowski, who won nominations from both sides of the aisle, is running unopposed for one available four-year seat.
The lone two-year seat in the 2nd Ward was sought by only one candidate, board appointee and Democrat-nominated Diane Bailey.
In the borough's 3rd Ward, three candidates — all challengers — will vie for two open four-year seats: Albert Beranek, nominated by the Republican ticket, and John “Jack” Caruso and Paul Wagner, both nominated by Democrats.
Also in the 3rd Ward, Beranek, who ran unopposed in the May 21 primary, will face Caruso for one open two-year seat.
If one of the candidates is elected to both the four-year and two-year seats on Nov. 5, he will be able to choose which seat he wants to fill, according to the county election bureau.
Pritts, 45, 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 motorists along State Route 31 (Main Street) on the borough's West End.
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 a Welcome Sign on the borough's East End.
“I look forward to working together with council to help the town move ahead,” Pritts said. “I'd just like your support, if you're happy with what's going on in the town, I would appreciate your support, and if you think what council as a whole is doing is worthwhile, I would ask you to support them, too.”
• 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 a past president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society.
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.
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 obtaining 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, 70, 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 promote the wise use of taxpayer dollars.
“I would like voters to elect me because I would roll in a way that goes along with the Constitution, and I would be for public safety, keeping taxes down and I would be an advocate of property owners' rights,” he said.
• Wagner, 48, a borough resident since 1971, works as an environmental health, safety and quality manager for Packaging Corporation of America, 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.
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