Law student Cerilli plans to run for Westmoreland County commissioner
A law student from Hempfield has announced her candidacy for Westmoreland County commissioner.
Gina Cerilli, 28, of Hempfield said she will run a campaign independent of other Democratic candidates in the May 19 primary election and won't limit herself to partisan politics.
“I don't want to be with anyone else. I'd rather do it independently,” Cerilli said. “I feel I can add a new direction in politics. I think voters are sick and tired of politicians fighting. Politicians have to work together.”
In a letter to voters, Cerilli pledged to put public interest above politics.
“Political factions today have lost the ability to debate their viewpoints, resolve their differences amicably and act as leaders together. Instead we are stuck with arguments, gridlock and nothing getting accomplished. This does not serve the best interest of taxpayers regardless of their political party,” she said.
No other Democrats have officially entered the commissioners' race. Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Ted Kopas said he will seek a second full term in office, and a formal announcement of his campaign is “pending.”
Democrats held a majority on the board of commissioners for nearly 60 years before Republicans took control of the three-member board three years ago.
Cerilli is a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic High School and an honors graduate of Philadelphia University, earning a bachelor of arts degree and a master's of business administration.
For the last five years, Cerilli has worked as a public relations specialist for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
She earns an annual salary of $61,500 and received tuition benefits of more than $10,000 to attend law school.
Cerilli will graduate from Duquesne University School of Law in the spring.
“I do want to be a lawyer, but I also want to give back to the community. I feel like I have a commitment to give back to my home county. I want to have an ability to have an impact on people's lives,” Cerilli said.
She said she will take a leave of absence starting this month from her job at the water authority.
Cerilli said her campaign will focus on human services issues such as the growing drug abuse problem in the county and improving programs for people with mental illness.
Her interest in politics came about through her work as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2010, she said.
“Five years ago I decided I wanted to get involved in public service. It was when I was Miss Pennsylvania, and I did a lot of community service,” Cerilli said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.