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4 seek vacant council seat

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2002

Former Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer and former Republican Brentwood councilman Martin Vickless are among four candidates vying for a vacant seat on the council now completely controlled by Democrats.

Cranmer, a former county Republican committee chairman and Brentwood Council member, is seeking the appointment as an independent. Two Democrats also are seeking the appointment: Kay Gannis, the borough's former tax collector; and Mary Ann Caponi-Vojtas, wife of borough police Sgt. John Vojtas. Letters of interest were due Monday and a decision is expected in February.

Vickless, who served one four-year term on council but lost his re-election bid in November, said he had a good relationship with Republicans and Democrats on the council, where bitterness often characterized party divisions. Democrats, who previously held a 5-2 majority on council, won all open council seats and the mayor's office in the 2001 election.

Vickless said he doesn't think the new council makeup should automatically preclude the possibility of his being considered.

"If I got it would I be surprised• Yeah," Vickless said Monday. "But I wouldn't be totally shocked."

The vacancy became official last night when former councilman Ken Lockhart, a Democrat, was sworn in as the borough's new mayor, succeeding Republican Ron Arnoni. Lockhart resigned his council seat with two years remaining in the term.

Cranmer, is seeking the council seat as an independent, said Venie Nicola, borough secretary. Cranmer had been rumored to have been recently considering a run for Congress.

Last year, Gannis and Caponi-Vojtas both sought the council seat left vacant by the death of former councilman David Schade. Schade's widow, Ann Schade, chairwoman of the borough's Democratic Committee, was appointed to the seat in November.

David Schade had been the Democratic nominee for mayor before his death Oct. 4. Lockhart replaced him on the ballot.

Gannis had been the borough's tax collector for 27 years before retiring in May 2001. She said yesterday she is not yet ready to fully embrace retirement.

"I'd just like to go in and do a good job for the people of the borough," Gannis said of her reasons for seeking the seat.

Caponi-Vojtas could not be reached for comment yesterday. In November she said she is a "separate entity" from her embattled husband and would abstain from decisions regarding him. Council has been pressed to decide whether Vojtas, on desk duty since a jury in a civil lawsuit found him responsible for the 1993 suicide of former fiance Judith Barrett, should be fired or returned to full duty.

Vickless said council has just started making progress on projects such as park renovations and financing for major projects, he had been advocating.

"I think I served the people fairly well over the last four years. I'd like the opportunity to do it again, especially because a two-year term is much more attractive than a four-year term," he said. "I'd like to have my ideas heard."

Each member of council is paid $2,400 a year.

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