Ben Avon mayor: Holcomb vs Jones

It's been a while since there has been much competition for the mayor's seat in Ben Avon. Voters this year will choose between incumbent Republican Robert Jones, and Democratic challenger Melanie Hughes-Holcomb.

The Citizen provided the candidates with the following questions. The candidates' responses are complete and unedited.

Jones: Employment, -- United States Air Force, FBI, R.B. Jones Corporation, Education, -- Shaler High School, Air Force Institute, Robert Morris

Holcomb: BFA in Arts Management from the California Institute of the Arts. 11+ years as Education Director at the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, where I am now. Former Owner of The Fire Escape coffeeshop in Ben Avon. 15 years as a professional Company Manager and Stage Manager for performing arts organizations around the country.
Community service

Jones: Serving my eighth year as Mayor of Ben Avon Borough, a member and Past Master of Avalon Lodge #657 F&AM, a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, a Knight Templar, past President of the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Fund Society, past member board of directors North Boroughs YMCA, former Elder of Community Presbyterian Church, and coached Pop Warner Football for 13 years.

Holcomb: 10+ years as a local Girl Scout troop leader. 9+ years as a member of the Avon Club, a community service organization, “Enriching life in our community since 1944”. Volunteer regularly at the Men’s Shelter and World Vision. Other local volunteering has included the Food Bank, Allegheny County Clean Air Now, Race for the Cure, Light the Night and the Avonworth Area Do Something Club.

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

Jones: There are always challenges. The Mayor signs ordinances into law and is then responsible for enforcing them.

The Mayor is the Boroughs Chief Law Enforcement Officer, and the police department reports to the Mayor. The Mayor oversees day to day police activities and is thus responsible for crime prevention and public safety. Thanks to Ben Avon's partnership with the Ohio Township Police, and through our 24/7/365 police coverage, we have reduced Ben Avon's crime rate to one of the lowest in the country.

In a public emergency the Mayor is the senior official in charge and has authority over the emergency first responders and the incident commander. As a two-tour combat veteran of Vietnam, I have experience staying calm in high-stress situations. My FBI background serves me well in working with the police department.

I have been certified and trained by FEMA, PEMA, and the Allegheny County EMC in emergency tactical response. I helped formulate Ben Avon's Emergency Operations Procedures, and I researched and prompted Council to adopt our Swiftreach 911 Emergency Notification System. I have and will continue to resist suggestions that we use this system for anything other than emergency communications. A borough Mayor has serious law-enforcement and public safety authority, and my background makes me especially qualified for that position.

Holcomb: A community needs to know who their elected officials are, be comfortable and welcome to bring questions and problems to them. Being an active part of the neighborhood you work for keeps you in touch with needs, concerns and the pulse of the population. Communication is key to a successful working relationship with the people you represent. Making use of modern methods of notifying neighbors of events, schedules and resources and keeping an open line of communication available goes a long way to ease frustrations and improve relationships.

Organizations that don’t look outward and move forward are doomed to fail. We can and should utilize technologies and partnerships to reduce costs for services, support local business, and work with surrounding communities proactively to move us all toward a bright future.

I have been deeply involved in this community for 17+ years. It is important to me that Ben Avon not just survive, but thrive! We need to work smart for Ben Avon.

Why are you running for office?

Jones: I want to continue to keep our crime rate as one of the lowest in the nation, by utilizing my law enforcement qualifications, my specialized emergency training, and my past military experiences I will keep our residents and their children safe on our streets and in their homes.

Holcomb: Friends from outside of Ben Avon have asked why would I want a thankless, unpaid job full of people complaining about problems. But friends in Ben Avon know how special this community is and have worked with me in many different ways over the years to continue our rich tradition of involvement, service and giving back. I think that public service should begin with a desire to serve. I am proud to live among so many of you who have served your neighbors in countless ways, big and small. This is one thing I can do to help ensure a proud future for our kids and the new neighbors who will come to love Ben Avon as we have.

Any other statement you would like to make?

Jones: To make our community more peaceful and a little quieter, I spearheaded the effort to enact an ordinance to reduce truck engine noise on Route 65 and put up “No Jake Brake” signs on the boulevard. I have been grinding away on a project I started several years ago to stop the train horns at the lock and dam. It has been a challenging task but I'm almost there. It is a matter of getting the Army Corps of Engineers and the Railroad to come together and agree mutually to eliminate the noise. After all it's a “private” crossing from a “private” road. If I'm elected I expect success with that project.

Holcomb: As I have chatted with hundreds of neighbors this election season, a few things became crystal clear: Ben Avon is a community that looks out for each other, our families and our kids. We are a community of networkers and communicators. We take care of our neighborhood and are proud of it. We are proud of its history and want to be smart about the future. It is an honor to have the encouragement and support of so many good people. It will be a privilege to work with you as your Mayor.