Off and Running

The campaign is officially underway. We’re circulating petitions, ordering yard signs, and more people are volunteering every day. And last night we had a formal kickoff event that was an overwhelming success. More than 250 people from every part of the county, and beyond, packed the Arnold Palmer Airport! I am absolutely thrilled and, frankly, humbled by the outpouring of support.

I want to thank everyone who attended who made the event such a success. We had quite a party. I also want to thank the many who contributed but could not attend. You were missed.

It was great start to the campaign. However, I recognize that it is just that – a start. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But I am definitely feeling energized by our kickoff event and by the tremendous support I am getting.

For those who could not make it to the event – and for those who want to know what I am all about – I wanted to publish the speech I delivered to give you all a better sense of what we’ve accomplished, where we’re going, and where I stand.

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It is my honor and my pleasure to stand before you tonight to announce my candidacy for Westmoreland County Commissioner.

When I became Commissioner nine months ago, I pledged to not make outlandish promises, to not play political games with the important business we do, work hard every day, and to always be straight with the residents of this county. I stand by those pledges today, and stand before you with a record of doing it.

In my nine months in office we’ve accomplished a lot:
– We rewrote the county’s decades-old vehicle policy to better manage the county’s fleet, save money and prohibit commissioners from ever having take-home cars.
– We began energy efficiency programs at county facilities that will save resources and money
– We refocused our office of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to better reflect those life-saving programs
– We made significant investments in our Community College and the Arnold Palmer Airport to help our local economy.
– And we passed a budget that kept taxes flat (again) and actually spends less in operating expenses this year than the year before.

Personally, I‘ve tried to lead by example, refusing a pay raise, a county car, mileage reimbursement and a cell phone.

During those nine months, I’ve also heard from many of you here, and from throughout the county.
– I’ve heard from volunteer firemen who value the strong working relationship between their departments and the county.
– I’ve heard from local officials who need the county’s partnership to complete important municipal projects and improve their communities.
– I’ve heard from desperate families who need services for their disabled child.
– I’ve heard from residents at Westmoreland Manor who are so grateful for the quality care they receive.
– And I’ve heard from people who simply want someone to listen to them to help solve their problems.

I have listened, and I have learned. Mostly I’ve learned just how important this job is.

I am proud of the work I have done so far. But I recognize the challenges and opportunities ahead.

We need to make sure that Westmoreland County government is stretching every dollar, while investing wisely to ensure high-quality human service programs, economic development opportunities and recreation options.

Due almost entirely to the state budget crisis there are no doubt going to be county budget challenges, since so much of what we do is controlled by Harrisburg. I think I proved during our most recent budget cycle that I am willing to make the tough choices, be a leader and be straight with taxpayers. The budgets we pass on my watch will always be prudent, responsible and realistic.

We must continue our work to improve our human service programs. That is our primary mission. And it is our responsibility to enhance services for vulnerable seniors, at-risk young people and those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. They are counting on us.

Next, we will bolster our economic development opportunities, making sure our local business community has the variety of sites it needs in our industrial parks to start or expand operations. Specifically, we will work to complete the renovation of the former Sony complex to accommodate multiple companies. And we will continue to work with Marcellus shale gas companies to help grow that industry responsibly, while giving communities the planning tools they need to protect their interests.

Lastly, we will continue to treasure the natural splendor that we have in Westmoreland County by finalizing our expansion at Twin Lakes Park and by preserving areas of special interest through the Westmoreland Land Trust.

Now, you’re going to hear a lot throughout this campaign from our opponents about the need to change county government. But I promise you that it will only be a generic buzz word and a campaign phrase, and no one will say what specifically needs to change – because the truth is, they don’t want it to. Like us, they enjoy cost-efficient government, low taxes and award-winning programs and services.

But this campaign and our government – the work we’ve done, and the work we still need to do – is about more than just me. It is about all of us.

There’s a reason you’re all here tonight…business leaders and labor leaders…mayors, council people and townships supervisors…Democrats and Republicans…folks from New Kensington to Monessen, from Ligonier to North Huntingdon and every point in between.

It’s because you believe that county government can have a positive impact on the lives of our citizens. Because you believe our residents deserve quality services and programs. And because you believe that government can be cost-effective.

I am honored and humbled that you believe in me.

Finally, while this is my first time as a candidate I have been involved with enough campaigns to know that it takes a team effort to succeed. I need your continued support to win this election and maintain the success we share. Everything helps – yard signs, phone calls, helping with petitions, talking to family members and neighbors, getting voters to the polls. If you don’t know how to help – trust me, we’ll find something for you. Just ask.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support. I look forward to working with all of you throughout this campaign and beyond.

Enjoy the rest of the evening.