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Commissioner race heats up in Franklin Co.

May 16, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide which of five candidates will win four nominations to run for county commissioner in November.

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Republicans have three candidates to choose from, incumbents G. Warren Elliott and Bob Thomas, and challenger Chris A. Bender. Only two will be on the November ballot.

There are just two Democratic candidates, meaning incumbent Cheryl Plummer, 50, of Chambersburg, and former Shippensburg, Pa., councilman Bruce Hockersmith, 61, will both appear on the November ballot.

Elliott, Thomas and Plummer were all elected in 1995. Elliott had served as an interim commissioner in 1987, Plummer had been appointed to office after the death of another commissioner and Thomas was a Chambersburg borough councilman prior to the 1995 election.

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"We stand on the threshold of really being able to change the job picture here with the redevelopment of Letterkenny" Army Depot, said Elliott, 44, of 822 Shatzers Orchard Road, Chambersburg. He said the commissioners insisted on higher standards for developing a Keystone Opportunity Zone at the depot than were required by the state law authorizing the tax-exempt zone.

The higher standards were meant to promote "higher paying, family-sustaining" jobs from businesses that won't compete unfairly with existing county industries.

Elliott said Franklin County has some of the lowest taxes in Pennsylvania, about $62 per capita. That compares to $308 per capita in services delivered by county government.

Elliott said that's a result of the county's success in accessing federal and state grants.

"We have to implement our comprehensive plan, preserving our heritage and recognizing the importance of farmland and open-space preservation," Elliott said. The recently completed plan is supposed to serve as a guide for future development.

"We have to have a plan for future development. The quality of life here is at risk otherwise," said Thomas, 44, of 171 Lincoln Road, Chambersburg. He said implementing the plan will be a major goal for the next four years.

Thomas cited the "pay-to-stay" and medical co-payment plans at the county prison as accomplishments of the last four years, along with elimination of the personal property tax.

Bender, 37, of 311 Pine Drive Ext., Fayetteville, was elected Guilford Township tax collector in 1993.

He could not be reached for comment in the past several days, but when he announced earlier this year, Bender said he wanted to lower real estate taxes, expand senior citizen programs and make the Commissioners' Office more accessible to residents.

"County leaders are out of touch with the average citizen," Bender said when he announced his candidacy. He served as Thomas's campaign manager in the 1995 election.

There's a special election for the Republican jury commissioner post to replace Robert Little, who died last year. Allen Twigg, John George, Robert Holland and Robert Zeis are running for the office.

District Attorney John F. Nelson, Register and Recorder Linda Miller, Prothonotary Linda Beard and Clerk of Courts William Vandrew are running for Republican nominations without opposition and there are no Democratic candidates in the primary.

In Guilford Township, four Republican candidates are seeking the nomination to replace Supervisor Jay Bowers, who died last year. Jeffrey J. Walton of Fayetteville, H. Leo Showalter of Marion, Steve Rock of Pond Bank and Michael A. Helman of Chambersburg are running for the GOP nomination.

In Quincy Township, Joe Middour and Christopher S. Petrie are seeking the GOP nomination to replace retiring supervisor Amos Egolf.

In the Chambersburg Area School District, challengers David B. Drawbaugh and Timothy J. Orndorf are looking to unseat Region 5 incumbent Penny Stoner. Region 9 incumbent Joel E. Happel is facing a challenge from Craig A. Musser.

Marilyn K. Smith, the incumbent for the Waynesboro Area School District seat in Washington Township, is facing challenges from Jack E. Martin and Stephen D. Kulla.

For school board seats, candidates can cross-file to run in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

related stories:

-- Sheriff's race pits newcomer vs. incumbent

-- Three vie for Franklin Co. coroner's post

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