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Comes to the rescue: Former fireman fills council seat

| Friday, March 8, 2002

SCOTTDALE - Unlike most new council members who took their positions in early January, Paul Clarkson took his oath of office before District Justice J. Bruce King as a Scottdale Borough councilman just last week.

Scottdale Borough Council declared a vacant Third Ward council seat at its Jan. 7 reorganization meeting and was unable to fill the position within the 30-day time period allotted by law.

The task of finding a council member then fell to vacancy board chairman Tom Phillips who had 15 days to fill the position. Phillips says if he hadn't found a candidate for the position, the issue would have gone to a judge at the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas.

Phillips says he called Third Ward residents until he nearly exhausted the list with no luck.

While Phillips was searching for a councilman, Clarkson was considering coming forward to express his interest in the job.

Clarkson contacted Scottdale Borough, his name was given Phillips, and on Feb. 18, council voted to accept the vacancy board's recommendation to appoint Clarkson to council.

Clarkson, a 1979 graduate of Geibel High School, grew up in Scottdale and served on the Scottdale Volunteer Fire Department for 18 1/2 years.

He says he has had an increasing interest in participating in local government in some capacity.

In past years, he took on the role of advocate for his neighborhood to have an alley paved and to get "children at play" signs erected there. That experience, as well as serving as a volunteer fireman, sparked an interest in working for the betterment of Scottdale.

When making a decision to approach the borough about the position, time was a consideration for Clarkson. He works as a computer operator in the accounting department of the Tribune-Review, and has a family.

He says he and his wife, Bonnie, are very busy with their children, Matt, 14, Brian, 11, and Emily, 8, and their activities such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, band and soccer.

Clarkson says his family always has - and will continue - to come first, but he will make every effort to represent the people of his Ward and the borough at council.

Clarkson says he's not joining council with a specific agenda. In general, he says he's interested in issues that affect children and says he has some ideas to share about matters that council has been discussing over the past few months.

Before he speaks at meetings, though, Clarkson plans to listen to council and to people in his Ward. He is also working to "catch up," studying minutes of past council meetings to ensure he is prepared for upcoming votes.

Clarkson tells constituents to expect him to "follow the rules, no matter what." He says he understands the importance of regulations and ordinances; he helped rewrite the fire department's bylaws in the early 1990s.

Borough manager Barry Whoric knew Clarkson when he served with the fire department and through his work with Scottdale's youth soccer league.

Whoric describes Clarkson as "a good man, a free thinker."

"I think he'll be an asset to council. I think he'll speak out on issues important to him and represent the community," Whoric says. "He'll be very active and participate fully at meetings."

Clarkson will serve a one-year term. Candidates for the Third Ward seat will be sought for this year's election.

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