Butler mayor faces opponent for first time since 2005
By Rick Wills
Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Butler Mayor Maggie Stock says revitalization of the city's main street and economic development would continue if she wins the Nov. 5 election for a third term.
Challenger Tom Donaldson, 61, a former police officer, says redevelopment and a flourishing arts scene belie a serious crime and drug problem in the city of 14,000.
Stock, a Democrat, the city's mayor for the past eight years, faces a Republican opponent for the first time since 2005, when she was first elected.
The city operates on an annual budget of $7.5 million.
“The fact that we have limited funds does not stop us from making things work. We have been very good at getting grants for everything from redevelopment to the police and fire departments,” said Stock.
Donaldson says police need to combat what he says is an increasing drug problem.
“They need to have more foot patrols. This is a city where people, including me, have seen heroin needles in front of the public library,” he said.
Donaldson is a supervisor at a trucking company and served on the Evans City Council in the 1980s. He worked as a police officer in the Butler County communities of Jackson in the 1970s and Eau Claire in the 1980s and served as chief in Franklin in the 1990s.
He started door-to-door campaigning earlier this year and says he has visited 2,000 homes.
Butler has not had a Republican mayor since 1985.
“Businesspeople are telling me there is more crime. You've got to make the neighborhoods safe. The city needs a mayor who understands the police,” said Donaldson.
Stock disputes Donaldson's contention that crime rates are rising. According to the state's uniform crime report, serious crime has declined in the city since 2008.
“Major crime in the city is down from where it was five years ago. We have had a consistent attack on the drug problem. We work with the police, the Butler County Drug Task Force and the FBI. No one who is concerned about quality of life wants drugs in the community. We arrest people regularly,” Stock said.
Butler's police department has 23 officers, a number Stock says has not been reduced during her tenure. The police this year started a canine unit.
A retired professor of English at Butler County Community College, Stock says she is proud of the economic redevelopment the city has undergone during her tenure.
Since 2006, the city has received funding from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Main Street program.
Among the newcomers to Butler's Main Street that have or will be opening this year are two bakeries and several restaurants. Two brewpubs will open next year. The Centre City Project is a $9.7 million plan that includes construction of an 80-to 90-room hotel and a Rite-Aid pharmacy.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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