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Ceraso to seek 3rd term

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, May 4, 2012, 12:04 a.m.

Citing more than seven years of accomplishments, Westmoreland County Commissioner Tom Ceraso announced Monday he would seek a third term in office.

In making his re-election announcement through an e-mailed news release, Ceraso, 43, a Democrat from New Kensington, touted his efforts to keep county spending in line, upgrade emergency management services and improve economic development initiatives in the county.

Ceraso also boasted of his efforts to seek competitive proposals for health care insurance for county employees.

"I am committed to continued service to the taxpayers and still advocate an open-door policy that always allows access to the county commissioners," Ceraso said in his news release.

His tenure in office has not been without controversy.

In the last two years, Ceraso has been criticized for taking a lobbyist-paid golfing trip, and most recently his wife's working relationship with an architectural firm doing business with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has come into question.

Ceraso eventually repaid the lobbyist for the cost of the trip and said lawyers have advised him there were no ethics violations with regard to his wife's employment.

Interviewed yesterday, Ceraso maintained that criticisms of his actions during his terms in office are expected. "My attitude is that as a public official, things I do and things I say are part of the public record," he said.

And Ceraso did not shy away from problems that have plagued the county prison, including the early release of inmates and accusations of improprieties among some guards. Ceraso serves as chairman of the county's prison board.

"In spite of our prison winning the efficiency award this fall from the state, we know we have to do more there and are not afraid to admit it," he said.

Ceraso is the second Democrat to formally announce his candidacy. Unity Township Supervisor Mike O'Barto late last year announced his bid to challenge the two Democratic incumbents. Tom Balya is expected to announce his plans to run for a fourth term later this week.

Two Democrats will win the party nominations in the spring and run against two Republicans in the fall for three seats on the board of commissioners. Five Republicans have announced they will run in the GOP primary. Commissioner Phil Light announced in December he will not run this year.

For the last five years Ceraso has run county government in concert with Balya.

During the first two years of Ceraso's first term, he and Balya were political adversaries. Balya teamed with the Republican county commissioner during that period to run the government.

Since then, Ceraso and Balya have voted together on most major issues, although last year the two Democrats differed on health care for workers.

Ceraso said he anticipates the two incumbents, while not formally running as a team, will operate coordinated campaigns.

"I want another four years in there with Tom Balya," Ceraso said.

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