There’s a crowded field of candidates seeking two Penn Hills council seats.
Six challengers and one incumbent, all of whom are Democrats, are running in the primary. There are no Republicans on the ballot.
The six challengers are Chuck Chieffo, James Getsy, Shawn Kerestus, Frank Pecora, Jace Ransom and Tyler Tomasino.
Incumbent Gary Underwood will not seek re-election and incumbent Mark Brodnicki will seek a four-year term. Underwood was re-elected in 2015 and Brodnicki was elected in 2017 to serve until the end of former Deputy Mayor Joseph N. Palumbo’s term, which expires Dec. 31 .
All council seats are four-year terms.
Brodnicki, 61, said he has met many great people in Penn Hills while being a councilman and he would love the chance to continue to serve them.
“Penn Hills is a great community and I hope to make it a little better. I believe that my education and experience with working with the public will help,” he said, highlighting his volunteerism at litter pick-up events and the Lincoln Park Community Center.
If re-elected, he will continue to try to get Allegheny County to help with Penn Hills’ animal control.
“If we could get the county involved by offering a similar service to blocks of municipalities we may be able to cut costs and get better service,” Brodnicki said. He will also continue to lobby the state government to widen Route 130 and Rodi Road to attract new businesses and eliminate traffic headaches for residents.
He holds a degree in business and accounting from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and a liberal arts degree from Westmoreland County Community College.
Brodnicki, a pool store manager in Murrysville, lives in Penn Hills with his wife, Victoria, and two dogs.
Chieffo, 65, said Penn Hills needs people on council and in the municipality who aren’t afraid to go against the status quo.
One issue that is important to him is doing more for the municipality’s volunteer firefighters.
“The fire departments need help. I want to keep up with the latest equipment and get training for them,” he said, adding he is a proponent to initiating a tax break for all volunteer firemen.
“But they need something else: education incentives. If they want to go to community college, we should reimburse them for the courses. They’re very vital for the community,” Chieffo said.
Chieffo graduated from Penn Hills High School and got an auto mechanic certificate from General Motors Training School in Monroeville. He then worked for the U.S. Postal Service for about 15 years and drove a school bus for Penn Hills School District for 14 years. He now works for Presbyterian SeniorCare in Oakmont as a driver.
He hopes to retire soon and to get involved more with local government to “make it better.” He has a son who lives in Greensburg and has been married to his wife, Diane, for a little over 20 years.
Getsy, 80, said he will bring his experience in working for the federal government to council. He retired in 2001 after a 35-year career with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The first thing I would do is establish public contact. I would follow up on people who had problems. I wouldn’t brush them off and I’d give a straight answer,” he said.
Prior to his career at HUD, he worked five years for the Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh to revitalize areas such as Oakland and East Liberty.
The Penn Hills resident of 54 years said he also has volunteered with a number of organizations since 1975. He holds a master’s of education from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University.
Kerestus, 35, said he is tired of the finger-pointing from elected officials and, if elected, he would find a way to work with everyone to solve the municipality’s issues.
“We all keep pointing fingers as to who is to blame,” he said, naming Penn Hills School District as an example. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be working together.”
Kerestus, who moved to Penn Hills 11 years ago, said a younger face would do the municipality some good.
“I would bring a different view point,” he said. For example, he said, the municipality should be taking advantage of the Allegheny County Tri-COG Land Bank, which was formed in 2016.
Kerestus, a pharmacy manager, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s in public administration from the University of Georgia.
Pecora, 60, said he wants to help lower taxes and create new jobs within the community.
“I also would like to investigate why our sewage bills are so outrageous and putting such a burden on the residents of our community, especially our senior citizens who live on a fixed income,” Pecora said.
The 1977 Penn Hills High School graduate is the son of the late state Sen. Frank A. Pecora, who died June 2017 at age 86. He is retired and used to work for the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission and the state Department of Revenue as a corporate tax collector.
“If elected I would plan to work to expand and develop a more equitable tax base by bringing in more businesses to our community,” he said.
Ransom, 50, said his priority is bringing transparency to local government and making information more accessible to residents.
“This is an opportunity to engage all demographics,” he said. “I want to give people more opportunities to get access to information, other than just going to a meeting.”
The former Penn Hills School District elementary school teacher hopes his relationships throughout the community establishes trust with voters.
“I am certainly a team player. We got to do this as a collective,” Ransom said.
Ransom works as a community outreach specialist with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. He previously worked as a Penn Hills elementary teacher from 2006 to 2016 and was furloughed several times as the district worked through its financial woes.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Thiel College and elementary teaching certification.
Tomasino, 28, said the municipality needs a change in direction.
“I believe in the community and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. In order to move forward, we really need to make some changes,” he said.
One issue he hopes to tackle if elected is the ongoing battle of litter. He said the municipality needs to make sure municipal roads are clear of trash and hold state and county officials accountable when it ends up on those roads in Penn Hills.
“We could start a sponsorship program from local businesses, national businesses – to sponsor roadways to get a name on a sign and then put money aside in a litter fund,” Tomasino said.
Tomasino, a Pittsburgh native, moved to Penn Hills at an early age and graduated from Springdale High School in 2009. He left Slippery Rock University to start a career in the restaurant industry.
He managed and helped open several restaurants in the region and around the country until starting a career with the U.S. Postal Service.
The primary election is May 21. The top two vote-getters will be on the ballot for the general election and barring a write-in winner, will take the seats.