Candidates ready to tackle tough issues in Jefferson Hills
Jefferson Hills residents vying for a seat on borough council say there are many issues facing the growing community and they’re ready to tackle them.
With resident concerns over UPMC’s plans to build a new hospital in the borough, questions surrounding the potential of oil and gas drilling, and the recent decertification of Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company, important decisions will have to be made, say the eight candidates seeking a party nomination in the May 21 election.
Four candidates will appear on the Democratic ballot for Jefferson Hills council, seeking a party nomination for one of three, four-year seats. They include Nicole Ruscitto, Karen Bucy, William Potts and Keith Reynolds.
On the Republican ballot, four candidates are seeking the party nomination for one of the three, four-year seats on council. They include James D. Kingsley, Michael Lewis, Joseph Leo Lynch and Melissa Girman-Steffey.
Ruscitto, 48, whose family has deep roots in the TJ community, said her goal, if elected, will be to make sure that Jefferson Hills keeps its character.
“I want to make a difference in the children’s future,” said Ruscitto, who lives in Jefferson Hills with her two children and husband. “As a council person, you’re a steward of your land. You need to make sure you keep the character and traditions of the community.”
Ruscitto, whose mother, Monica Stoicovy, also lives in Jefferson Hills, also said she cares about the elderly in the community. She wants to make sure people’s voices are heard and taken into account when decisions are made.
“I would like to protect the environment and future of the environment,” she said. “I don’t want big industry to come in and take that away…. I want residents to know that I’m there to protect them.”
Bucy, 62, a retired reading and English teacher and 18-year Jefferson Hills resident, began attending council meetings after seeing signs about Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company. Her dad was a lifelong Pleasant Hills fireman.
“I will only say positive things about volunteer firefighters,” she said.
As a retired teacher, she wants to see a standardized junior firefighter program that would help with the lack of volunteers at fire companies but also give youth a sense of purpose, she said.
She wants to see the volunteer fire companies in Jefferson Hills consolidated.
Bucy, who lives in Jefferson Hills with her husband and has a son away at college, sees other issues in the community, including the potential for fracking, which she’s against.
As a union president for over 20 years, she hopes to bring those skills to the community.
Potts, 62, a retired Jefferson Hills police officer, said he’s running because he wants to make sure people are aware of what’s going on in the community before it’s too late to act.
“In Jefferson Hills, for too long, issues pop up when it’s too late to do anything,” he said.
The nearly lifelong resident and father of three who lives in Jefferson Hills with his wife says if other communities are dealing with an issue, Jefferson Hills officials should consider how they would handle it as it likely will impact the borough eventually as well.
“I think there needs to be a little more openness and a little more research,” he said.
Reynolds, 50, said if elected, his first goal would be to get Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company recertified. He points to the distance between other fire companies and residents and even Gill Hall Elementary as one reason it’s important to keep the fire hall open.
Residents living around the proposed UPMC site also deserve to be treated better, he said.
He also is “100 percent against fracking,” he said. He doesn’t want children to have to grow up with an environment that’s compromised.
“This community is and always will be my home. I didn’t feel the correct thing would be to stand by and watch. You have to get involved,” said Reynolds, whose mom, Kathleen, served on council for the last 12 years.
Kingsley, 74, a Jefferson Hills resident for more than 35 years, said his main concern is public safety.
“I think the community has quite a few issues involving the volunteer fire companies and fracking. Public safety is at the height of that,” he said. “I think we can continue to do a good job in public safety.”
Lewis, 53, said he wants to give back and volunteer. After semi-retiring from his job as owner and CEO of Quick Med Claims, Lewis said he hopes to offer his expertise as “someone who built and grew a service organization.”
“I know what it takes to run an organization,” said Lewis, a five-year Jefferson Hills resident, who now serves as executive chairman of the company.
Lynch, 33, who served eight years in the Navy, said he’s always looking to serve, “whether it’s my country or right in my backyard.”
The two-year Jefferson Hills resident said he wants to make a difference in the community during a time when there are pivotal issues at play.
“First and foremost is the public safety of our residents,” he said.
He hopes to see Gill Hall Volunteer Fire Company join the consolidation of fire companies in Jefferson Hills. All of them working under one body would provide greater accountability and less need for duplicated equipment, he said.
While he said he understands concerns related to a new hospital, he doesn’t see that it would be any different for residents living near the proposed UPMC site as it is for him, living near Jefferson Hospital. He sees a new hospital as a draw for businesses in the community.
“I want to make Jefferson Hills a place where everyone can call home,” he said.
Girman-Steffey, 42, has served on the Jefferson Hills recreation board for nine years. During that time, she was instrumental in bringing Community Day back to Jefferson Hills. The recreation board has made improvements to parks and always worked as a cohesive group, Girman-Steffey said. That’s how she wants to see council operate.
The full-time Realtor prides herself on having integrity, respect, honesty and empathy — values she said are needed when making decisions on borough council.
She wants to make sure every resident concern is heard, no matter how small.
“My No. 1 concern is to keep the community growing strong,” she said.