Please provide a biographical narrative.
I am a life-long resident of Clearfield County and I currently reside along with my wife, Kelly, and daughter, Amanda, on Meadow Road in Lawrence Township. I am currently serving in my third term as Clearfield County Commissioner. Prior to serving as county commissioner, I worked for more than 20 years in the field of information technology.
What motivated your interest in running for Clearfield County Commissioner?
We are currently in the early stages of forming a regional rail authority with the initial purpose of rebuilding the rail line between Curwensville and DuBois. This rail project has the potential to open many of our existing industries to new markets and provide less expensive transport costs, which should attract new business to Clearfield County.
I continue to serve as chairman of the Pennsylvania Counties Health Insurance Purchasing Cooperative. The cooperative recently added Lackawanna and Lycoming counties as members raising the number of insured to more than 8,200 county government workers and their families. The cooperative now has more than $80 million annually going into the insurance pool, and for Clearfield County, our involvement has saved more than $7 million since Clearfield, Clinton and McKean counties formed the co-op in 2005.
I have also been very active as a member of the Retirement Board in making changes to our investment policies that has seen our employee pension fund grow from $18 million in 2010 to more than $32 million in 2015, ranking in the top 15 percent of public pension funds.
Lastly, I have taken a very active role in protecting our communities by opposing the Boggs Township landfill project and attending meetings about the proposed injection wells in Brady and Huston townships.
These things I’ve mentioned are just a few of the issues that motivate me on a daily basis to serve the citizens of Clearfield County.
What qualifications do you possess that would benefit the Clearfield County Commissioners’ Office?
The experience I’ve gained and the leadership I’ve shown in managing Clearfield County Government is paying off for the taxpayers of Clearfield County.
As I mentioned in Question 2, the involvement in the health insurance co-op has brought a tremendous savings for the taxpayers and allowed the county to get the cost of employee healthcare benefits under control.
I’ve also been serving on the board of directors for Central Pennsylvania Community Action, where we oversee projects to bring affordable housing to both Clearfield and Centre counties.
I have also served for several years on the executive board of North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission and I am scheduled to serve as board chairman in 2016.
I also have shown the ability to work with officials from federal, state and local levels of government to advocate for Clearfield County.
Finally, I will continue my commitment to be a full-time commissioner and will not be using the commissioner position as a secondary income source as certain other candidates are likely to do.
Government transparency has been a buzzword in politics for the past few years. Do you feel that the county is transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?
Compared to federal and state government, the county is the one level of government that citizens can walk into county offices and talk with their elected officials.
The Right To Know law that was enacted a few years ago gives citizens the ability to request most the of documents and records that are on file in county government.
Clearfield County also posts the annual county budget online, we release the salary list annually to the press and the county controller is required to publish an annual financial report so the taxpayers can see how their tax dollars are spent.
As county commissioner, I’ve always made any information I can available to citizens as long as there isn’t a legal reason for the information to be kept confidential.
If elected, how would you reach out and form relationships with citizens of Clearfield County? How would you reach out to those citizens in the outlying areas of the county?
Throughout my service as Clearfield County Commissioner, I’ve always attended events all over Clearfield County. While attending these events, I am always available to speak with anyone who wants to talk about issues important to them.
It’s always been a family thing for my wife, daughter and I to attend events like DuBois Community Days, Curwensville Days, the Clearfield County Fair and community dinners and fundraisers.
As commissioner, I supported the creation of a Community Development Specialist position in the planning department who is available to help our municipalities and community organizations with grants and project planning.
Additionally, our Domestic Relations Office established an office in DuBois that has video conferencing with the DRO main office in Clearfield. The DRO DuBois location also has space that is available for the commissioners or any other row office officials to utilize.
If elected, what measures would you take to ensure the efficient operation of Clearfield County?
Once the November election is over and we know who will be the three members of the Clearfield County Board of Commissioners for the next term, if I am the only remaining incumbent, I will help the two, new commissioners transition into office in January.
There are a lot of responsibilities a county commissioner faces everyday and the newly elected ones coming in will likely have a lot of questions I can answer for them. I will continue to promote a good working relationship with other county row officers and both county judges.
What is your opinion on regionalization of government positions, police forces, etc. within Clearfield County?
The financial reality is local tax dollars are limited and municipal level government officials are going to have to figure out how to provide essential services needed in their communities.
Municipalities want to maintain individual identities but, in some cases, the only way they can provide services is to form regional partnerships.
Another issue we see in municipal election years is the lack of candidates filing to run for borough council positions in the smaller boroughs and township auditor positions. Usually the seats are filled when someone gets a few write-in votes and accepts the positions, but finding people willing to serve is getting difficult.
One option the smaller boroughs have, if the citizens approve it through a ballot referendum, is to merge with a township like Lumber City did recently with Ferguson Township.
If elected, what measures would you take to generate economic development opportunities for Clearfield County?
As mentioned in an earlier question, I am currently working with interested parties, both public sector and private industry, to form a regional rail authority with the first project to reopen a rail line between Curwensville and DuBois. We already have support commitments from U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson and U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
If this moves forward, it will bring a $30 million investment of public and private dollars that will provide more cost effective shipping options and open new markets to existing regional businesses and attract new industry.
Upgrading the rail infrastructure will create a number of short-term jobs on the project itself and should attract business interests that will create long-term new jobs.
The area where we continue to see growth is in natural gas drilling and services that support the industry. We are working to attract new industries to Clearfield County that will utilize byproducts from natural gas to create other products.
Also, with the recent location of WhiteWave Foods to Sandy Township, we are concentrating on attracting other food production-related businesses to the county because they remain solid employers even during down cycles in the national economy.
If elected, what would be your top priority as Clearfield County Commissioner?
While economic and community development is always the top priority, the daily operation and management of county government is what occupies the majority of the time of county commissioners. County commissioners also have the responsibility to maintain county government facilities and to provide the level of services that citizens expect. That said, my ongoing priority will be to effectively manage county government operations while maintaining a balanced budget that recognizes that costs must be controlled.
What are the greatest challenges facing Clearfield County? If elected, what measures would you propose to resolve them?
The greatest challenge Clearfield County is facing right now is the crime and drug addiction issues we are seeing in many communities. Citizens are reading reports in the local press about heroin and cocaine dealers coming in from New York City and setting up in local motels to sell hardcore drugs.
This problem increases costs to county taxpayers with increased inmate population at the Clearfield County Jail. Once we hit a certain number of inmates, the warden has to move prisoners to Centre County Jail, which costs the county additional money.
To resolve the issue will take an ongoing commitment from elected officials, law enforcement and the courts to arrest and prosecute the people who are bringing drugs into our communities. We also need to have the services available for the people who want treatment to overcome their addictions.