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Westmoreland County election roundup

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 3:52 p.m.

Greensburg Salem school board

An incumbent Greensburg Salem school director will return to the board next month, this time with a two-year term.

Republican Angela DeMarino-Tooch, 47, edged Democratic challenger Linda Hensel, 53.84 percent to 45.96 percent, in unofficial returns from 27 precincts in Tuesday's election.

Both wanted to fill the remainder of former President Nat Pantalone's term. He resigned last summer.

DeMarino-Tooch, a mortgage license originator, first joined the board in December 2009. She failed to secure a Republican or Democrat nomination for a four-year term in the spring primary.

Both candidates were nominated by their respective parties for Tuesday's election.

DeMarino-Tooch said she is troubled by the district's pension debacle that allegedly resulted when ineligible compensation was added to salaries to boost former administrators' retirement checks.

Hensel, 71, previously served on the board in the 1980s.

Ligonier Valley School board

Republicans Carolyn R. Shafer and Kim Dickert-Wallace and Democrat John E. Maier will continue to serve on the Ligonier Valley School Board, and Republican David Wilcox has been elected to join them in January.

They defeated challengers Carl Fabrizio and Barbara Boring, both Democrats, and Republican Edward Sutter on Tuesday in the race for four, four-year terms, according to unofficial election returns.

Unopposed candidate JoAnn Thistlethwaite claimed the two-year term. Thistlethwaite and the four winning candidates were endorsed by the Valley Education Political Action Committee.

Shafer received 18.2 percent of the votes, with Maier at 15.8 percent, Wallace at 15.7 percent and Wilcox at 14.7 percent.

Some of the goals the four candidates cited as part of their election platforms included connecting with the community, promoting communication between the board and public and uniting all corners of the district.

New Stanton Borough Council

Two Democrats and two Republicans won seats on New Stanton council in Tuesday's election, with incumbents winning across the board.

According to unofficial returns, Linda Echard, 58; Dean Clark, 76; Scott Sistek, 54; and Brandon Clawson, 35, won four-year terms. In addition, Echard won a two-year seat with 50.2 percent of the vote to Clawson's 49.8 percent. Echard will have to chose which position she wants.

For the four-year term, Echard came in with 16.5 percent, Clark with 16.4 percent, Sistek with 16 percent and Clawson with 15 percent of the vote.

The returning council members will guide the borough through a multi-million dollar construction project on the Interstate 70 ramps that empty traffic onto Center Avenue. County planners have asked council to come up with a long-term plan for the borough after construction is complete.

Council also will decide whether to fill the new position of borough manager, or leave it vacant β€” a contentious issue among residents.

New Stanton mayor

Nick DeSantis will serve another four-year term as the mayor of New Stanton Borough, leading the community through a multi-million-dollar road project, construction of a borough building and possibly filling a newly created borough manager's position.

According to unofficial results, Republican DeSantis bested Democrat James Mack with 63 percent of the vote. Mack received 37 percent.

Leading up to the election, DeSantis, 45, and Mack, 63, debated who would be more available to the public. Mack is a dentist who has an office at Highland and Center avenues in the borough. DeSantis said he travels about once a month for his job as a quality engineer for Areva Inc.

The borough faces a prolonged road construction project as the Interstate 70 ramps that currently intersect with Center Avenue are reconfigured. The project has some business owners worried that travelers will be redirected and will not patronize borough gas stations and restaurants.

Council is in the midst of finalizing plans for a $380,000 borough building to be built on Paintersville Road and is interviewing candidates for the borough manager's position.

Unity Township supervisor

Unity residents elected a new supervisor who does not plan to act as roadmaster.

According to unofficial results from all 13 precincts, Republican Tom Ulishney, 59, bested Democrat Domenick Scekeres, 44, with 54.6 percent of the votes to Scekeres' 45.2 percent.

The two political newcomers squared off after Supervisor Jake Blank Jr. decided to retire. Ulishney will serve a six-year term.

Ulishney said because the township has a centrally located garage, it is not necessary to continue the tradition of all three supervisors serving as roadmasters.

Scekeres said he wanted to learn the position before upending an 80-year-old system.

Ulishney said he would focus on senior citizens, veterans and fire departments.

Latrobe City Council

Three newcomers won seats on Latrobe council in Tuesday's election, according to unofficial results.

With all six precincts reporting, Democrat Gerald Baldonieri, Sr., 59, Republican Julie Bisi, 47, and Republican Trisha Caldwell Cravener, 28, defeated incumbent Democrats Kenneth Baldonieri, 64, and Richard Jim, 84.

Gerald Baldonieri received 23.7 percent of the vote, while Bisi received 22.3 percent and Cravener 22.1 percent. Jim posted 16.1 percent and Kenneth Baldonieri 14.4 percent.

Gerald Baldonieri said raising taxes is not the best way to compensate for funding shortfalls, while Bisi and Cravener called on officials to offer incentives to lure businesses to the city.

The new council members will join Republican Michael Skapura and Democrat Fabian Giovannagelo on the board Jan. 1, along with new Mayor Rosie Wolford, who was unopposed.

Derry Township supervisor

With all 13 precincts reporting, Republican challenger Jim Prohaska of Bradenville, seeking his first term, edged incumbent Democrat Dan Rullo of New Alexandria by 90 votes in the race for a six-year term as Derry Township supervisor.

Rullo, 48, was seeking a second term.

Prohaska, 52, had 1,318 votes, or 52 percent, to Rullo's 48.2 percent, with three write-in votes counted in the unofficial totals.

Rullo won election in 2007 over Republican Brian Edmiston, who was seeking a second six-year term as supervisor.

The board of supervisors remains Democrat-controlled, as Chairman Vince DeCario and Vice Chairman David Slifka are Democrats.

Rullo and Prohaska cited promoting business development in the township as a key issue during their campaigns.

Greater Latrobe school board

Three incumbents seeking re-election to the Greater Latrobe School Board were joined by a newcomer as the apparent winners in Tuesday's election for four open seats, according to unofficial results.

With all 20 precincts reporting, newcomer Bill Mohler, 70, led all candidates with 23.1 percent of the vote, followed by incumbent William A. Palmer Jr., 56, with 22.4 percent; incumbent Rhonda Laughlin, 46, with 20.4 percent, and longtime incumbent Kathryn Elder, 75, with 16.9 percent.

Former director Conrad Lazor, 72, got 16.7 percent, trailing Elder by just 32 votes. There were 64 write-in votes.

Those running on the Republican ballot benefited from a slight voter registration edge over Democrats in the district, which covers Latrobe, Unity and Youngstown Borough. Republicans account for 7,977 of 19,769 registered voters, while Democrats total 7,478.

Elder was seeking an eighth term. Lazor served on the board from 1987 to 1995 and 2003 to 2011, then lost a bid for re-election. Director David Moffa, who was appointed in December 2011, opted not to run for a full term.

Monessen mayor

Democrat Lou Mavrakis is the new mayor of Monessen.

Mavrakis defeated Republican Robert Zynosky Jr., taking nearly 64 percent of the vote in the city's 13 precincts, according to unofficial election results.

β€œThe first thing I'm going to do is work with council and do all I can to get rid of the blight,” said Mavrakis, a former steelworkers union negotiator. Mavrakis, 75, upset incumbent Mayor Mary Jo Smith in a bitter primary campaign.

There are 275 abandoned homes in the city of 7,731 residents. Mavrakis wants Westmoreland County to give the properties to neighboring owners so the homes can be demolished.

He opposed Smith's initiative to turn the city into a mecca for artists. The plan, known as Monessen Rising, was a development concept led by two New York businessmen who were going to oversee the project using public money to raze and renovate abandoned homes to sell to artists and develop artist lofts, galleries and other businesses in the former mill town.

Zynosky, 48, a registered nurse, said he wanted to find ways to increase tax revenue without increasing property taxes.

Franklin Regional school board

All four open seats on the Franklin Regional School Board will be filled by newcomers, with three incumbents being replaced. according to unofficial election returns from all nine precincts,

Eight candidates had campaigned for the hotly contested seats that ultimately were won by the four Republican nominees: Jeremy Samek, Gregg Neavin, Susan Ilgenfritz and George Harding.

Unofficial results indicate Samek, an attorney, received the most votes with 14.6 percent; followed by Neavin, an account manager, with 13.82 percent; Igenfritz, a sales representative, with 13.77 percent; and Harding, a retired engineer, with 13.1 percent.

The remaining four candidates rounded out the voting with incumbent Kimberly Bondi claiming 11.71 percent, incumbent Dennis F. Irvine getting 11.11 percent, Bobbi Watt-Geer receiving 11.04 percent, and incumbent Paul A. Scheinert receiving 10.73 percent of the vote.

Ligonier Township referendum

The majority of voters in Ligonier Township approved a ballot referendum that would add two supervisor positions, expanding the board to five members.

The expanded board got approval from 57 percent of voters on Tuesday, according to unofficial results. The referendum was spearheaded by the Brighter Future Political Action Committee, a group of residents who gathered more than 400 signatures during the summer so the question could be placed on the ballot.

The committee said the addition of two supervisors would improve governance and oversight of township operations.

According to Pennsylvania's Second Class Township Code, a board of supervisors may consist of three members β€” or five, if approved by electors.

Newly elected supervisors Scott Matson and Paul E. Knupp have said they approve of the expansion, while Supervisor Tim Komar said he feels it is not necessary at this time.

An additional three-year term and a five-year term will be filled in next year's election cycle.

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