REYNOLDSVILLE — Democratic candidates hoping for party nominations to local office in the May 17 primary met Wednesday at the Bellamauro Social Hall in Reynoldsville.
Those speaking included candidates for county commission, magisterial district justice and county auditor.
Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Don Hilliard introduced the candidates, and thanked them for running. He also urged voters to turn out for the local elections.
The candidates for county commission vacancies include incumbent Jeffrey Pisarcik and challengers Tom Swab and Pat McFall.
• Swab said he is a life-long resident of Jefferson County and a life-long Democrat. He has been a member of the Brookville Area School Board for the past 19 years, and is active with the Brookville Fire Department, F.O. Eagles and the Immaculate Conception Church.
Referencing his experiences with northern counties such as Tioga, he said the economic development from Marcellus Shale in those counties is “unbelievable,” and he thinks such development is heading Jefferson County’s way.
“If you could see what a difference it has made up there, prosperity-wise, it is just unbelievable,” he said. “I want to work, as your county commissioner, with the gas companies and the local entities and local business.”
That being said, he said he would be the best choice to represent the county as that development takes place.
“We have all seen how our county has been. If we want to keep our tax base, we need more people and more businesses,” Swab said. “The gas companies need to understand they have county commissioners that will work with them; that will take care of the environment; and that things will taken care of the way they should. We have to have somebody they can trust and take care of them, and I feel I can do that.”
• Pisarcik, who has served as the minority party commissioner for the past eight years, said residents should examine the county budget when making their decision May 17.
“The federal government seems to struggle from week to week with running our country,” he said. “The state budget issue is an absolute mess because they have overspent over the years, and has left us as taxpayers to pick up the tab.
“When I was voted in, the county was in serious financial trouble and had an annual $2.5 million deficit in the general fund, and the county’s bond rating for borrowing money was the worst in history,” Pisarcik said. “I promised then that I would work full time as county commissioner to correct those issues. I’m to say that in the last two years, we have been out of debt.”
Pisarcik referred to a five-year financial plan that included reducing spending and paying down debt.
Also, Pisarcik said he will continue to work with those involved with Marcellus Shale and will be an advocate for the county in those developments, and he sits on the county’s Natural Gas Task Force.
• Corsica resident McFall discussed his leadership qualities and the leadership roles that he feels will suit him well if he is elected county commissioner. Those leadership roles include mayor and fire chief of Corsica.
“Throughout those years, I’ve had many leadership roles,” he said. “I’m a leader in many areas, and I think these qualifications enable me to serve as county commissioner.”
In conclusion, McFall said, “Remember, last on the ballot, your first choice to be your next county commissioner.”
• Douglas Chambers is running unopposed for district justice of the southern portion of the county.
Chambers has been in courtrooms in the county for 37 years, and is now seeking his third term as district justice.
“As a judicial candidate, I cannot promise you economic development, more jobs or better bridges,” he said. “What I can promise you is that I will continue to take this job seriously, continue to perform this job diligently and in a cost effective manner, and continue to see that justice is done on a daily basis.”
Four candidates cross-filed on both the Republican and Democratic tickets for the position of district judge of the western portion of the county. Those candidates include Lucy Ames, Greg Bazylak, David Beck and Beth Ammerman Gerg.
• Ames said she served with the state system of higher education for the past 32 years.
She said during that time, her primary experiences have been that of mediator, negotiator and grievance resolution specialist — all characteristics that are essential as a district judge.
Most recently, Ames has been serving as a judge for Clarion University, where she hears the cases of students who have been arrested with felony charges.
“These are the very same cases that go before the district court in Clarion County,” she said, noting that the only difference between her current occupation and district judge is that she hears cases on behalf of the university, rather than the magisterial district.
• Bazylak said he has a “wealth of knowledge and experience that nobody else can offer.”
“I’m running because I believe that the person hearing the cases and deciding law should know more about law than the people who are arguing their cases,” he said. “That is the only way to get a fair shake.”
Bazylak has served as county prosecutor and assistant district attorney for more than 10 years, and said he has taken the most skilled lawyers that defendants could bring forward.
He said one question that should not be asked is whether he cares enough to do the job well.
“Nobody asked if I cared when I was prosecuting child molesters,” Bazylak said. “Nobody asked if I cared when I was prosecuting rapists. Nobody asked me if I cared when I was prosecuting those who hit their wives or girlfriends.
“It is obvious from my actions (that I care),” he said. “I went after those people with a vengeance. I made this county a place where you did not want to make mistakes. I made criminals go to other counties. I bring that with me. That is my record, and I stand on it.”
• Beck said he is a life-long resident of Brookville, and he is looking to succeed his father, Dick Beck, as the district justice housed in Brookville.
“My father is the current district justice,” he said. “He brings a level of respect and integrity to that position, and I plan to do the same.”
Acknowledging that he does not have a law degree or legal experience, David Beck said 75 percent of current district justices in Pennsylvania do not have law degrees, saying they are police officers, shoe salesmen, house wives, car salesmen and others.
Beck said he is the only candidate endorsed by the United Mine Workers of America District No. 2.
• Gerg referenced her legal experience and local ties.
A Brookville Area High School graduate, Gerg also graduated from Juanita College in 1981 and obtained her law degree from Dickinson Law School in 1984.
For the past 27 years, she has served in the legal system that she feels will help her when serving as district justice.
Also, she said her community involvement, including service with the YMCA, WRC Senior Services and the Brookville Junior-Senior High School mock trial, speak to her community orientation.
“I hope this illustrates the real dedication to the community that I have,” Gerg said. “I hope this puts me a cut above all the other candidates, because I am the only one with this dedication and experience.”
Gerg concluded by saying twice that “if elected, my only job will be to serve as your district judge.”
• Incumbent Brenda Scarantine is seeking a third term. She thanked those in attendance for allowing her to serve, and she encouraged all voters to turn out for the May 17 primary and make their voices heard.