A current Blairsville Borough councilman is vying for the mayor’s seat in the May 21 primaries, while the mayor is seeking to retain his position.
Joe Caugherty is running for a second term as mayor. His challenger is longtime councilman Ron Evanko.
Caugherty and Evanko will be on the Democratic ballot.
Joe Caugherty said he is running for re-election for mayor because he wants to continue to work with Blairsville’s new police chief, Michael Allman, who was hired in March, as well as the police department.
“He’s very well-qualified. He’s respected,” Caugherty said.
Now retired, Caugherty served for 32 years with Blairsville’s law enforcement, six of them as chief of police.
Some of Caugherty’s duties as mayor, in addition to overseeing the police department, are to declare any proclamations and break ties on a council vote, which he said he has yet to do.
He said he wanted to give the mayor’s position “one more four-year term if people put me back in.”
“I want to work with the new chief and want to see the town grow, and work with the police department,” Caugherty said. “Since we got a new chief here I’d like to continue to work with the chief to help the people in town, no matter what their desires might be — more police presence, which we’re trying to get established right now, and more drug enforcement.
“(Allman’s) a working police chief — he’s been out there patrolling and answering calls. He’s been doing a really excellent job.”
Caugherty also is running for a seat on borough council. He was a councilman for two years before being elected mayor.
He said he has a really good rapport with council members, and “I would like to keep working with them.”
“I’ve gotten along very, very well with borough council here in Blairsville and vice versa; they’ve gotten along very well with me,” he said.
Caugherty said he wants to see Blairsville continue to grow and “stay on the right path it’s going on right now.”
“With the new trails that are coming through, the bike trail and river trail, the town’s still growing yet; it has potential,” he said. “I can’t help but love the town and the people. The people in this town will give you the shirt off their back if you ask them for it. They’re terrific people, great people.”
Caugherty said if he’s elected for both positions, he’ll have to “take one or the other,” and would opt for the position of mayor to continue working with Allman and the force.
“I’d rather have the mayor’s position, but I’ll leave it up to the people,” he said. “If they put me back in, they put me back in. I feel I’ve done a good job so far.
“As long as we all work together, Blairsville has the potential to grow here again, and I think it will,” he added.
Caugherty was born and raised in Blairsville. He has two grown daughters.
Ron Evanko, who has been on Blairsville Borough council for 18 years, is running for mayor because he said he wants to get out and “promote Blairsville some more and speak up on behalf of” the town.
“I feel I have something to give to the town after all these years on council,” he said.
Evanko said in addition to local networks, he has contacts in Harrisburg and Washington that he can reach out to for his cause.
“I have a good rapport on both sides of the aisle that I could use to promote Blairsville and move it into the 21st century,” he said.
Evanko said he knows that part of the mayor’s responsibility is managing the police department, and “I feel I have the know-how to manage the police department along with the new chief and be a spokesman of that.”
“My style is not to micromanage,” he said. “The mayor isn’t there to do the everyday management of the police department. He’s the go-between for people who have problems and the police.”
He said the mayor is “more the communicator of the town.” He said he will try to meet with people as they need it, even going so far as to meet them at their homes.
“I’m not someone who will tell somebody what they want to hear,” he said. “I’ll tell them the truth and if I don’t have the answer, I’ll get the answer for them and get in contact with (the right person).”
Evanko also said he’d like to “reinvigorate our Diamond Days and do something for that, at least get the group back together or have another festival in town, or have at least some kind of community gathering where people can meet.”
He also said he feels the mayor should get involved with the mayors’ association as well as meet with mayors from other towns that may have similar issues as Blairsville, whether it be community problems, drug problems, etc., and trade ideas on how to improve those issues, “not try to reinvent something again.”
“In discussions with other mayors throughout the state, they have the same issues,” he said. “Some of their ideas are good. You have to implement those ideas and come up with funding sources, such as grants, with the help of council and the police department. They have to agree.”
Evanko also said a first impression of the borough is key.
“You can only make a first impression once. You have to keep the town presentable” for potential residents and businesses coming into the area, he said.
Evanko represents the Second Ward and has served many years as council president and vice president. He has chaired the finance, police/fire and parks and recreation committees, and also has served on the insurance, personnel and streets/capital improvement committee.
He is past president of the Blairsville High School Band Parents, PTA member, retired ASA softball umpire after 25 years in the position and has served as a softball commissioner/organizer in Blairsville. He belonged to the Blairsville Recreation Board and the Historical Preservation Committee of Blairsville, and belongs to the Historical Society of Blairsville and the Historical Underground Railroad Society of Blairsville.
Evanko is a member of the Blairsville Fraternal Organization of Eagles and the Red Barn Sportsmen’s Club.
He also has had involvement on several county boards and committees, as well as the Indiana County Boroughs Association, and holds membership with national and state associations. He recently finished his term on the state boroughs association, leaving him “more time to dedicate to the town and move it forward.”
Evanko is retired from Clark Metal Products in Blairsville, where he has resided for 40 years. He is married to Indiana County Commissioner Patricia Evanko. They have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.