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CAMPAIGN 2013: Several seats open on Indiana Borough council

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on October 29, 2013 11:00 AM

At least 10 candidates — a mix of incumbents, challengers and write-in hopefuls — are vying for Indiana Borough council seats in three contested races in the Second and Third wards in next week’s general election.

[Links to candidate profiles appear following the story.]

In a Second Ward race for two four-year seats, incumbent Robert Jobe Jr., a Republican, is seeking a second term. The other candidates are Gerald Smith, who won both Republican and Democrat nominations in the primary and was elected by council members this summer to fill a vacant seat, and Democrat Donald Lancaster.

One two-year seat is also up for election in the Second Ward. In that contest, Democrat Larry DeChurch, elected by council in June to fill another vacancy, is challenged by Republican Brett Johns.

In the Third Ward, three candidates — incumbent Republican Richard Thorell and incumbent Democrat Nancy Jones, and challenger Republican Matthew Gaudet — are vying for two four-year seats.

Additionally, Jennifer Gonda-English and Taralyn Federoff are conducting write-in campaigns in the Third Ward council contest.

Gonda-English, a Republican, is a Realtor with Kuzneski & Lockard Inc., White Township, and is the owner of J.S.G. English Appraisals in Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1997 with a degree in environmental health, and has lived in Indiana since 1995.

She said she has been approached in the past about being a council candidate but only recently decided she could now feel comfortable on council and can now make a difference. Her recent decision to join the race is why she is running as a write-in candidate rather than having her name on the ballot.

“I think we need change” on council, Gonda-English said. “A lot of issues don’t get solved and get tabled.”

She believes more cooperation is needed — cooperation at the council level and with IUP and the community.

There needs to be a lot more listening to other ideas on council and more analysis of information before decisions are made, she said.

One flier being distributed around Indiana urges Third Ward residents to “vote for students” and lists Gonda-English as one of two candidates to support.

“I’m not here to represent IUP. I’m here to represent the Third Ward” which includes many IUP students, Gonda-English said.

Mobilizing university students to vote will be important in winning the Third Ward seats, she said.

“They (IUP students) should be involved in decision-making and be aware of what’s going on in the borough,” she said.

The 3/1 and 3/2 precincts in the Third Ward, with polling places in Pratt and Zink halls on campus, respectively, are comprised heavily of IUP students. According to the Indiana County Voter Registration Office, there are 6,367 registered voters in those two precincts. But there is no way to tell from the figures how many of those registered voters are IUP students.

Gonda-English is also the Indiana County coordinator for the American Cancer Society Road to Recovery volunteers who drive cancer patients to medical appointments, and is a board member of Welcome to Indiana.

Federoff, a Democrat, has lived in Indiana since she was in second grade. She is now an IUP senior majoring in political science and anthropology.

“I really want to bring a more accurate representation of IUP to the town,” she said in explaining her reasons for being a council candidate. “Right now, it’s negative. It’s not representative for most students. It’s not representative for myself.”

Federoff said some of the negative reaction to IUP right now came about from this month’s homecoming celebration.

“I want to show council (that) students can contribute positively to the community,” she said.

“IUP is a huge part of the community,” Federoff continued. “I don’t think we can be discounted. I also want to bring new ideas, a wealth of knowledge that hasn’t been tapped into” and to work together with council members. “A more cohesive community is what I’m working toward.”

Council has some good ideas, Federoff said, adding she wants to bring new student perspectives to those ideas.

Federoff regards the IUP student vote as “absolutely critical” to her chances of winning a council seat representing the Third Ward.

“I can’t do it without their votes,” she said.

She acknowledged there usually is not a big voter turnout among IUP students in nonpresidential elections.

“But the fact that a student is running is getting students interested. … It’s causing them to re-evaluate and think about their part in this community,” she said.

In two non-contested races next week, Democrat Katherine “Kitty” Shryock Hood is unopposed in the First Ward for the council seat being vacated by Kevin Kravetsky, and Fourth Ward councilwoman Julie Adcock, a Democrat appointed in October 2011 to fill a vacancy, is unopposed for a full four-year term of her own.

 

CANDIDATE: Larry DeChurch

CANDIDATE: Matthew Gaudet

CANDIDATE: Robert Jobe Jr.

CANDIDATE: Brett Johns

CANDIDATE: Nancy Jones

CANDIDATE: Donald Lancaster

CANDIDATE: Gerald Smith

CANDIDATE: Richard Thorell

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