3 council seats to be decided in Bellevue

Three Bellevue Council seats left undecided after the primary election will be filled by voters who go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

In the borough’s first ward, two seats are open, and only one incumbent is on the ballot.Current council member Kathy Coder is joined on the Republican ballot by Megan Swackhammer. The Democratic ticket features Henry Lenard and Mike Braunlich. In The third ward, incumbent Democrat Lynn Tennant Heffley is running against Republican Grant Saylor.
first ward

Braunlich is running for the council seat that will be vacated at the end of the year by his wife, Jane, who is running a write-in campaign for mayor. A union roofer for 40 years, Braunlich and his wife have raised four children in Bellevue and been active with their school and extracurricular activities, such as BAGAA and the Northgate Band Boosters. He was deeply involved in the construction of the Bellevue Dog Woods off-leash dog park, and put his carpentry skills to good use there by building rustic benches.

He says that he will be a good representative for the people of Bellevue because, like them, he knows how to live within a budget and prioritize his time, and has extensive knowledge of the contracting industry. Braunlich says that he will attend all meetings and do his homework so that he is able to make good decisions about the many borough issues that come to council.

Braunlich says that his construction background will be an asset in overseeing the public works department and various infrastructure improvements on the borough’s horizon. A particular favorite of his is Bayne Library, which is scheduled for rehabilitation next year.

“I visit the library a lot and I’d really like to help guide the renovation.”

Two issues that he thinks are critical to the borough are the sewage cost increases and code enforcement. With ALCOSAN rates scheduled to increase significantly in the coming year, Braunlich said that he wants to make sure Bellevue does not add to the residents’ burden by instituting a large increase in the borough’s sanitary surcharge, as has been proposed in the past.

As for code enforcement, Braunlich said that his walks through the borough have revealed many properties that are not in compliance with the property maintenance code, something that needs to change.

Lenard is a lifelong resident of Bellevue who started his professional life as a reporter and editor for the City & Suburban Life newspaper. Holding a journalism degree from Duquesne University, he went on to work as editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Business Times and served as marketing director for one of Pittsburgh's 10 largest law firms. He currently runs a marketing communications consulting business and is the Pittsburgh correspondent for Robotics Business Review.

"I see Bellevue as a hidden gem with a lot going for it, but beset by too much negativity. We need to actively promote the positives about Bellevue, not focus on the negatives and dragging our community down," he says.

Among the positives cited by Lenard are the borough's geographical accessibility, availability of public transportation, a healthy business district that offers a variety of retail and service businesses, and the borough's parks. However, as a daily walker, Lenard says that he sees the damage that has been done by absentee landlords who fail to comply with borough ordinances and maintain their properties.

"We do not necessarily need new ordinances; we do need to enforce existing, long-standing ones," he said.

Coder is seeking her second full term on Bellevue Council after being appointed to a vacant seat. She served as president of council for several years, and currently is a member of the parks and recreation committee.

She earned a bachelor degree in communications from Edinboro and a master's degree in organizational leadership from Geneva College. She has owned her own organizational and leadership development consulting business since 1999.

Coder founded the Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Revitalization (BIGr), and has served on the boards of 3 Rivers Wet Weather, North Hills Community Outreach and the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce, and was a vice president with the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT). Coder also founded and serves as the board chairman for Women in Leadership Leading Other Women (WILLOW).

Coder did not respond to a request for comments on election issues or her current candidacy.

Swackhammer moved to Bellevue in 2010, when she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in history. She now works as a research associate in the university’s development office.

“Growing up, my parents encouraged me to be politically aware. Shortly after moving to Bellevue, I was advised to attend a Bellevue Council meeting so that I might see and judge for myself what occurs on a regular basis inside our small town local government. I did so, and was surprised at the behavior I witnessed. I decided to get involved and am now running for council.

“I am running as a Republican. Some people have tried to make this election and many issues we have seen lately in our town about party lines. I don’t see our problems as red vs. blue. I look forward to the opportunity to work with others who have Bellevue in mind and see great things in our future.

“I think Bellevue has a lot going for it. The location is superb – close to the river, 10 minutes from downtown, and on a highway that’s not nearly as crazy as 376, 279, or 28. We have fantastic parks. We have our own library. We have a lot of people who are passionate about Bellevue – council members, business owners, and citizens.

“Simultaneously, we have some downfalls. Businesses are closing or leaving the area ...We need to encourage businesses to move here and stay here. Our council cannot fix the problem alone, but (generally speaking) they have been inflexible and closed minded. I would love to meet with councils in other towns that have recently revitalized – towns such as Lawrenceville and Beaver. There are always many contributing factors to a town’s renaissance, but the council needs to be open to facilitating the renewal.

“Another way to increase the desirability of our town is stronger enforcement of our current building code. Our code enforcement office needs support to tackle the issues that are prevalent with blighted properties in Bellevue.”
third ward

Heffley is a lifelong Bellevue resident who has raised her family here, with two sons graduating from Northgate High School. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Pittsburgh and elementary education certification from Chatham, and has been a teacher at Bellevue Elementary School for more than 20 years.

Her volunteer service in the borough has ranged from a variety of school-related organizations, such as the PTO and Quarterback Club, to her current efforts with such borough events as the July 4th picnic, dumpster days and National Night Out.

Heffley said, “I believe Bellevue has more strengths than weaknesses, and that as a community we should focus on making our borough into an even better place to live, worship and shop.”

Part of those efforts need to be centered on eliminating blight in both the residential and commercial areas of the borough, she said, while recognizing that one of the borough’s greatest assets is the central business district.

Heffley said that she would like to see more of a police presence on the streets of the town.

As far as her role as a member of council, she said that everyone elected needs to set aside personal agendas and focus solely on what is best for the borough.

Saylor also is a Bellevue native. Although his career in the service industry took him away from the area for a few years, he and his wife returned 14 years ago to purchase a home here. He currently is employed as a district manager for Starbucks, overseeing 25 stores in Ohio, west Virginia and Pennsylvania. Saylor notes that his management experience in the food service industry for a number of large corporations has given him a background in managing multi-million dollar budgets.

“I have a proven track record of developing and maintaining client relationships both within and outside the organizations with which I do business. I am directly responsible for creating and implementing plans to support execution of key initiatives to achieve both operational excellence and business results. I am a strong communicator and believe that transparency is vital to any relationship whether it is personal, professional or political.”

He also agrees with Heffley that Bellevue has more strengths than weaknesses.

“I just think we can do better than this,” he said.

“My vision is for Bellevue to be looked up to as a community that is well balanced – A strong business district and a strong school district that create a vibrant community. In order to have either of those you must have a place where businesses can thrive and families feel welcomed and safe. This community is a hidden gem in Pittsburgh and needs strong leadership and vision to bring it out of the past and into the present. Walk down the street on any evening or weekend past the closed down shops and boarded up store fronts and then hop in your car and drive to Lawrenceville, Point Breeze, Sewickley or any of the other communities that are thriving or on the rebound and you will see my vision for Bellevue. No, I do not want us to be a carbon copy of any of those places, I want us to create the uniqueness that is and should be Bellevue. Shops, restaurants, live music, theatre, and arts; the things that attract young families and tax payers to a community, an active community where residents can live, worship, shop like the sign on the boulevard says…

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