2 seeking Democratic nomination for Connellsville mayor; Matthews seeking support for second term

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews is seeking a second term.

The 61-year-old lifelong resident will compete in the May 21 primary.

The Connellsville Area High School alumnus attended Penn State University, where he studied social sciences. He completed his degree while serving as an Airman First Class in the Air Force.

After his two-year enlistment, Matthews spent an additional two years with the International Guard and 6 ½ years with the Army National Guard in Connellsville.

He joined the city Police Department, moving up through the ranks during a 23-year period and, at one time, was the police chief.

Matthews served as a volunteer firefighter with New Haven Hose Company for 29 years, where he did a stint as president.

He is the president of the board of Fayette EMS, a former Rotary president and a 38-year volunteer with the Connellsville Little League, of which he is a trustee. He also was league president for many years.

The mayor was the longtime director of safety and security for Connellsville Area School District before retiring.

Matthews said he became interested in local politics, wanting to become more involved in the city and with the residents.

Prior to being elected mayor, Matthews was a city councilman.

“I first served on council, and it was half-way through my second term that I decided to run for mayor,” Matthews said. “I felt that I could do some good for the city. I didn't have any hidden agendas, and I just felt that the city had been going in only one direction.”

Matthews said he spent his first year in office getting familiar with his duties and working as best he could amid a failing economy.

“That first year as mayor, the economy was terrible,” he said, and had to focus on selling city-owned properties.

“I didn't think that the city should be in the real estate business,” said Matthews.

Matthews said his first term was highlighted by razing several dilapidated buildings in the city — which he would continue if re-elected.

“I know that it's not always been a popular decision, especially with the history like some of them have, but we have to be realistic,” he said.

Matthews said he is pleased with the passing of a zoning ordinance that addresses old buildings and properties. The mayor is satisfied that he fulfilled the promise to reduce the paid city fire department, creating a savings.

The mayor said he hopes a resolution regarding city taxes.

Matthews admits the problems faced at Connellsville Community Center have been a challenge, but he believes the center is now going in the right direction. The mayor said he hopes he can be instrumental in its rebirth.

The mayor said he aims for the voluntary advisory board to the center and the former community center board to merge. And he hopes the building will be leased and managed.

“Maybe down the road, a year or so from now, we will be able to turn it over to someone else to manage and get it back out of the hands of the city,” Matthews said.

He said several new businesses have moved into the center and several others are showing interest.

Matthews said he seeks re-election to be a part of economic growth.

“I actually think that the future is a little more positive now,” Matthews said, noting that the new train museum and positive results of a hotel study results are only two areas showing growth.

“We are having some bites now and some outside interest, which is great,” he said.

Matthews said he appreciates Connellsville, where there are many volunteer groups whose aim for the city to prosper.

“We are a unique town,” Matthews said. “We are so fortunate to have so many groups of people who are so willing to do things for the town. I don't feel that they get enough credit at times, because they all do such a good job. We have a little town with a lot of people that are really pulling for it.”

“I think that people know that I only want what is best for everyone and for the city and that I will always have their best interests in mind in whatever I do,” he said.

Matthews and his wife, Patty, have one child and two grandchildren.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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