Election Preview: Blair County Commissioners

Local News

BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Here’s a look at your candidates for Blair County Commissioner: (Order goes by appearance on ballot.)

Chuck Gojmerac, Republican:

Gojmerac is the Park Director at Morrison’s Cove Memorial Park. He touts his experience in finance and budgeting and says he has taken the non-profit organization at the park from a “sinking financial ship” to paying off the debts, making improvements to the park, and saving money. He believes he can apply the same success to he county. Gojmerac says, “If I can turn around a non profit that was fialing that has a budget of a half a million dollars a year, could I do the same this with our county goverment which is multi million dollars a year? With some help, probably.”

Bruce Kelley, Republican:

Kelley is a four-term councilman on the Altoona City Council and has worked in the offices of the State Senate and U.S. Congress. While on city council, he voted to go into Act 47 and says doing it early was key to getting out early. Kelley touts his government experience and says that it is what the county needs for the challenges it faces. He says, “There’s some tough decisions that the Blair County Commissioners are going to face in the coming years. I think experience is important. We need commissioners with experience making these decisions because it’s not going to all be done by raising taxes. So, people are going to have to prioritize and make tough decisions.”

Bruce Erb, Republican, Incumbent:

Erb is looking for his second term. His background is in banking and financial planning. He says in his time as a commissioner his financial intiatives have saved the county a million and a half dollars a year and says the underfunded pension has been brought out from the brink of bankruptcy and on the road to solvency. He also touts his work on mental health in the county. Here is what he says he wants voters to think about when they think about his time as a commissioner: “I think they need to think about fiscal responsibility. The ability to analyze financial statements and financial issues and to deal with them in an appropriate and business like way. That’s what I’ve brought to county government. That’s the skillset I have. 

Joseph Zolna, Republican 

Zolna is a life-long Blair County resident and financial professional by trade. He wants to bring that skillset to the county. He also says he wants to help bring skilled labor positions back to the area. He has ideas to live stream meetings on social media to engage the community and increase transparency. He says, “I’m young and I really care about this area. I have done a lot of research and a lot of work coming into this race. I’ve looked and spent countless hours in the courthouse researching everything, getting to know everybody, talking to the employees, talking to residents by going out and hitting doors. I want people to understand that they have a voice in this too.”

Amy Webster, Republican:

Webster is an attorney, realtor and minister in the county. Her main issue in this campaign has been the property tax re-assessment. She represented residents in the appeals process. She believes the commissioners should be the ones hearing the appeals because they are held accountable. She believes local appraisers should have been used and should be used moving forward. For appeals, she thinks they need to be done online or sent in the mail because of the cost to re-assess. Here is her message to the voters: “I want them to think about the tax re-assessment and how, even if it didn’t effect them, how many neighbors were hurt by it and do they really want the county to go forward with people losing their homes? Feeling like they have to sell because they can’t afford those taxes? I don’t think anybody wants to see that.”

Debra Weston, Republican:

Weston is a MRI Research Technologist at Penn State. A lifelong Blair County resident from Tyrone, Weston says she wants to give a voice to the to the residents from the southern parts of Blair County. She got into the race because of the re-assessment and she says she feels the appeals process needs to be re-opened with a new board of appeals. She says she wants to help those who are most vulnerable in the community. Weston said, “I’m a very outspoken person, I say whats on my mind,. I’m always about transparency. I have compassion, I have integrity to be a local politician. I want to hep the most vulnerable people in our community and give them a voice.”

Ted Beam Jr., Democrat, Incumbent 

Beam is running for his third term as a commissioner. Beam says if re-elected he looks forward to continuing to work on the county pension system that he says has gotten on the right track as well as the airport construction project and the road map project out on County Route 101. He says, “For 8 years I’ve worked very hard to do what’s right for the majority of the residents of the county and I would hope that they would consider the fact that we faced the tough decisions, we’ve made the tough decisions that had to be made and now the county is on the right track. I’d like to continue that as we go forward in the future.”

Laura Burke, Democrat

Burke ran for the 80th district seat last cycle that is currently held by Jim Gregory. Burke is an attorney, mother and resident of Blair County. She says the re-assessment was one of the issues that drew her to the race. She believes that the county should re-assess in another four to eight years but with local appraisers that know the area and it’s value. She also beleives her point of view as an attorney is one the commissioners office will need with the departure of Commissioner Terry Tomassetti. Her message to the voters: “I want them to think about integrity and transparency. Really those qualities are what I’m trying to bring back to the commissioners’ office.  Which means I want to improve the communications with the citizens and also with our municpial government so that we are bringing better services and a lot of that is sticking to our word, giving our word and making sure we are communicating open and honestly.” 

The two with the highest votes in each party move on to the general election in November. 

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