Hempfield man, formerly state director of UFO group, enters Westmoreland commissioner race
A Hempfield man accused in a national magazine article of making racially insensitive statements on social media announced Thursday he will seek a position on the Westmoreland County board of commissioners.
John Ventre, 61, a Republican, said his candidacy will focus on improving the county’s finances and criticized the current office holders for poor oversight.
“I’ve been retired for six years, but I’m coming out of retirement to campaign because I don’t like what I see politically or financially in this county,” Ventre said. “We’ve nearly drained our $60 million reserve fund, had to pay a liberal outside firm for ideas and a misguided plan, have too many lawsuits and political patronage.”
Ventre, who has never held elected office, worked as a security and public affairs employee with UPS in New Stanton until his retirement in 2012.
He also served as a state director of Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, an organization that investigates and researches reports of suspected sightings of unidentified flying objects.
An article published by Newsweek in April about the organization and its leadership focused on Ventre, racially-tinged comments towards African Americans he posted on social media and efforts to oust him from his role with the group.
On Thursday, Ventre said he has left the organization, disavowed its work and downplayed his racial views.
“I basically re-posted what someone else said,” Ventre said of his social media writings.”This hatred has to get dialed down. I did apologize for it the next day. I made one statement, and now I am a racist.”
He also has spoken out against bringing diversity to Westmoreland County, a component of a comprehensive plan for future growth that county commissioners approved last month.
“The culture here is unique. I don’t know it’s conducive to opening up the county to diversity,” Ventre said.
Ventre is the third Republican to announce his candidacy for county commissioner. Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County employee Paul Kosko and Sean Kertes, chief of staff to Commissioner Charles Anderson, have said they will run for the four-year seat.
Anderson, 76, announced this week he would not seek another term in office.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.