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County Hall Corner: A Fivesome at the Forum

It was an unusually hot evening for the first day of October, where the small Eagle Grange #1 in Montgomery, located along Rt. 15 just a short distance from the White Deer Golf Course, saw a packed house watch and listen to the five candidates running for the position of Lycoming County Commissioner engage in

It was an unusually hot evening for the first day of October, where the small Eagle Grange #1 in Montgomery, located along Rt. 15 just a short distance from the White Deer Golf Course, saw a packed house watch and listen to the five candidates running for the position of Lycoming County Commissioner engage in a Candidates Forum. They were Republicans Tony Mussare and Scott Metzger along with Democrats Rick Mirabito and Elliott Weiss, which are all on the ballot, along with write-in candidate Jack McKernan. Mussare, Mirabito, and McKernan are all currently incumbents.

The forum was designed not to be a debate, but more of a chance for the candidates to tell more about themselves and what they stood for. Attendees were encouraged to submit questions, of which a bipartisan panel reviewed and submitted to the moderator to ask the candidates. The candidates had three-minutes to give opening and closing remarks, and only two-minutes to answer the questions posed to them. It was obvious that these are individuals who are used to giving more than two-minute answers, but for the most part, their discipline was remarkable as there were very few ‘overtimes.’

The forum concept allowed the moderator to ask personal questions, such as “identify a mistake you made in the past and what you learned from it,” and “what person had the greatest influence on your life.” The answers were amazingly candid but collectively revealed that all five men are certainly ambitious and goal-driven, but are also humble enough to recognize that they are fallible and owe a lot of their success to others.

The ‘issue’ questions revolved around hot-buttons such as property reassessment and county budget cuts. Not surprisingly, the candidates took different stands and did their best in the two-minute constraints to defend their positions.

On the budget, they are all in agreement that it must be reduced but appeared to have five different approaches to how that could be done.

On reassessment, only Elliott Weiss was not for it, noting that by law it cannot raise the overall tax base.

A local issue of police and fire regionalization was brought up, and all five candidates noted it was the wave of the future and needed to be encouraged, but several noted that ultimately this had to come from the municipalities themselves as they were the ones that actually had to pull together to make it happen.

There was one rather open question, “what is an issue that deserves more attention?” It allowed the candidates to focus on their particular concerns.

Tony Mussare was concerned about senior citizens struggling with paying their property taxes. Scott Metzger, likewise, was concerned about property taxes but also related them to broader property issues such as flood insurance and the levee project. Jack McKernan noted the problems that needed to be addressed related to inmates of the county prison dealing with mental health, drug, and alcohol problems. Rick Mirabito argued for more transparency in government, especially relating to the hotel tax. He was also concerned about the decline in income and population growth in the county, something that Elliott Weiss also addressed noting the need for economic development and job growth.

One takeaway from this forum was that, in one sense, Lycoming County is rather fortunate to have five capable men running for the highest elected office in the county. There are no lightweights among them. They are all highly qualified as three are incumbents, and challenger Scott Metzger has 32 years working for the county, and challenger Elliott Weiss has been an attorney in Williamsport for 40 years.

Kudos also to Eagle Grange #1 that felt it was important to conduct such a forum and to the 70+ in attendance who hung in there through a hot night with no AC running and at the same time contending with traffic noise along Rt. 15. They demonstrated the commitment of an informed voter. On November 5th, Lycoming County voters will get to select two of the four men on the ballot, and/or write in Jack McKernan or anyone else they so choose. It is an important choice, as the decisions this board will make in the next four years will profoundly impact us all. As the old knight said in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” — choose wisely!

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