A rarity: Changing of the guard
For the first time in 28 years, Butler will have a Republican mayor.
Tom Donaldson, a supervisor at the Foreman Brothers trucking firm and a former police chief, defeated Mayor Maggie Stock with 66 percent of the vote.
Donaldson's campaign focused heavily on crime and drug problems in Butler, which he said residents spoke of repeatedly as he campaigned.
“We're going to work together to make the city better,” said Donaldson.
Donaldson said he decided to run for mayor after seeing hypodermic needles in the street near the Butler Area Public Library while walking with his grandson.
“This has got to stop. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone in their 20s knows someone who has died from heroin,” he said.
In late July, Donaldson started campaigning. He said he knocked on at least 2,000 doors, on weekends and almost every night after work.
Downtown Butler has experienced a revival in recent years, fueled by the desire of some to live in a culturally rich and small city where people can walk to work, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Donaldson wants such development to continue but said neighborhoods have been ignored as Main Street has been spruced up.
“You don't have to be far off Main Street before the sidewalks start looking bad. When I talk about taking the neighborhoods back, I'm not talking about ignoring Main Street,” Donaldson said.
A decade ago, Main Street had about 20 empty storefronts. That number has been reduced to six, according to Butler Downtown, a nonprofit revitalization initiative involving citizens and people representing business, education, government and community organizations. Businesses on Main Street that have opened or will open this year are two bakeries and several restaurants.
Donaldson worked as a police officer in the Butler County communities of Jackson, Franklin Township and Eau Claire.
Mayor Stock said she was surprised by the results but looks back on her eight years with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
“I feel that my administration made major improvements. The Centre City project is the biggest project in 20 years,” Stock said.
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. Two brewpubs also will open in the city next year.
Stock said the city has been run in a bipartisan manner.
“We have been focused on fixing problems. There have been unanimous votes on the council, which has three Democrats and two Republicans,” she said.
Stock said drugs have been a problem in the city but said there is no easy solution.
“I know a number of residents are concerned. If there were an easy solution to the drug problem, everyone would have it,” Stock said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.