5 council seats on Ben Avon ballot

Politics in Ben Avon have gotten a bit lively this year, and the November ballot offers a lot of choices for voters.

There are four seats for four-year terms on the borough council. There are seven candidates from which to choose. On the Democratic ballot, candidates are Jennifer Bett, Henry Casale, Megan Griffin Dolan and David Stoekle. The GOP ballot has incumbents Michael Wrbas and Russell Kuehner, plus Victoria Brind’Amour. Incumbent R.J. White is running a write-in campaign.

There also is a two-year seat on Ben Avon Council to be decided. The only candidate actually on the ballot is Republican Michele Boyd. Democrat Jennifer Fustich is conducting a write-in campaign for that seat.

The Citizen sent questions to all of the candidates appearing on the ballot for a contested seat. At the time the questions were sent, Boyd was the sole candidate on the ballot for the two-year seat, so she did not receive the materials. Fustich obtained the questions from another candidate and supplied answers, but The Citizen determined that because Boyd had not been given the opportunity to respond, it would be unfair to print the answers sent by Fustich.

Because incumbent Richard White’s write-in campaign was not known, he also was not given the opportunity to respond to the questions.

Of the seven candidates receiving the questions, no replies were received from Dolan or Stoekle. The responses from the other candidates are printed here, unedited.

Employment/Education

Bett: B.A. Communication Studies, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania; M.P.M. (Master Public Management) Carnegie Mellon University, concentrating on non-profit management.
Over 25 years working as a project manager, small business owner and entrepreneur. Most recently managing intellectual property and government compliance for Carnegie Mellon University’s technology transfer office.

Brind’Amour: Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology from SUNY Buffalo. I’ve worked as an environmental compliance professional for over 35 years, including about 5 years with a state regulatory agency, 5 with a private consulting firm, and 25 directing all environmental compliance and permitting activities for a company with approximately 30 locations, both domestic and international. [Not sure you need to know company names, but 6 years ago my firm, originally headquartered in New Brighton, PA, was acquired by Sonoco Products Company, and I am now part of Sonoco’s Global Environmental Services group.]

Casale: Partner Horty Springer & Mattern. I have worked at this firm since I graduated from law school in 1984. BS Pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh 1979; JD University of Pittsburgh School of Law 1984. I have served on the faculty of meetings and seminars sponsored by numerous hospital, managed care, legal and physician organizations, including HortySpringer Seminars, the American Health Lawyers Association, the American Association for Physician Leadership (formerly the American College of Physician Executives) and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

Kuehner: Retired Teacher, Pittsburgh CAPA.

Wrbas: Key Bank N. A. – Vice President, 48 years in Banking

Community service

Bett: Prior Girl Scout volunteer; current Secretary for the Avon Club; serve as Board Member with Community Theatre Players of Ben Avon; Committee Member of Friends of the Ben Avon Bookmobile; Secretary for the Ben Avon Democratic Committee.

Brind’Amour: President of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at Sacred Heart Church in Emsworth for a number of years.

Casale: Currently serve on the Board of the Bradley Center. In the past I have served as a Hearing panel member for the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board; have served on the Board of the Rx Council of Western Pa; and have also served as a member of the Health Law Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Kuehner: No answer.

Wrbas: Retired Major USAFR, 30 years; Former Lieutenant Allegheny County Sheriff Reserve – Uniform Division; Past President of the North Boros Chamber of Commerce; Current Scout Leader Troop 572 Sacred Heart Church – Emsworth

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your borough and how would you address them if elected?

Bett: Ensuring stewardship of our vibrant community; enhancing communication and transparency between the borough and residents as well as having a proactive and positive approach to improvement projects and neighborhood events.

Brind’Amour: The biggest challenges I see are maintaining the high quality of services (police, fire, public works) we currently enjoy in the Borough, meeting DEP mandates for sewer improvements, and ensuring we comply with other regulatory obligations while staying within the Borough’s budget and tax base. Our current Council members have an excellent record of sound financial management, and Borough business is addressed in a non-partisan, professional manner. That is how it should be, and I’d like to see that continue through the coming years. We must all work together to keep Ben Avon a safe, inviting and affordable community for young families, retirees and others on limited incomes.

Casale: I would like to see the Borough continue to provide excellent services to its residents while keeping taxes as low as possible. I realize that there is no easy way to meet this challenge and I would like to see if the Borough can leverage its limited resources by taking greater advantage of the services offered by the Quaker Valley Council of Governments, grants and other funding sources.

Kuehner: There hasn’t been a tax increase or bond floated in Ben Avon for over 20 years, and yet, we have found a way to pay all of the bills and have enough money left over each year to pave a number of streets. Keeping a 24/7 police presence, maintaining the Volunteer Fire Company, and being sensible are most important. I'd like to continue these practices.

Wrbas: No answer.

Why are you running for office?

Bett: I have lived in Ben Avon for 23 years with my husband, Michael, and our now 2 teen-age daughters. From the day we moved in, Ben Avon has been the perfect fit for my family; offering so much in education, community and spirit. Now it is time to give back: I am running for Council to be your voice in Ben Avon promoting honest government, strong public safety, and preservation of our infrastructure and community.

Brind’Amour: Ben Avon has been our home for 30 wonderful years. My husband and I raised our family here, and we could not have asked for a better community in which to do that. It is time to give something back, and if lucky enough to be elected to Council, I would be honored to offer what time and talents I can over the next four years to help ensure our quality of life continues.

Casale: I would like to use the expertise that I have gained by working as an attorney in a heavily regulated industry over the past 30+ years to improve my community. I would like to bring an interest-based approach to working with the Mayor and other members of council to solve problems in a collegial manner. I would also like the opportunity to volunteer my services to the community that has benefited my wife, children and myself over the 18 years that we have lived in the Borough.

Kuehner: I love Ben Avon. I love being on Council. I bring a set of skills that have fit in with my responsibilities on Council.

Wrbas: No answer.

Any other statement you would like to make?

Bett: I, along with my fellow slate of candidates, am deeply committed to Ben Avon and want to be your voice in government. We want to hear your thoughts and suggestions as to how Ben Avon can be even better by reaping the benefits of all that our local, county, state and federal government has to offer. Thank you for your consideration.

Brind’Amour: None

Casale: This campaign has provided me with the opportunity to reconnect with neighbors that I know and to meet new neighbors. I very much appreciate the support that my neighbors have shown to me in the primary, and hope that support continues on November 7th.

Kuehner: I am a Democrat who, through the write in vote, is on the Republican ticket. Council is bi-partisan. The “party line” really has nothing to do with the work of the Borough. I’m not here to fight the big national battles. I just want to help keep Ben Avon the great place it is in which to live.

Wrbas: None