Redding, Bitner eye Chambersburg mayoral job

November 04, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg mayoral race in Tuesday's general election pits a former Fourth Ward councilman, Republican John A. Redding, against a former political opponent, Democrat Jason Bitner.

Redding, 74, of 312 Sunbrook Drive, defeated incumbent Mayor Tom Newcomer in the May primary to win the GOP nomination. He served nearly 12 years as a Fourth Ward councilman until resigning in September when he moved out of the ward to another part of Chambersburg.

Bitner, 29, of 580 1/2 E. King St., was unopposed in his bid for the Democratic nomination in the May primary. This is his second run for elected office, his first having been in 2001 when he ran an unsuccessful campaign against Redding in the Fourth Ward.


The main duty of the mayor is the administration of the borough police department, which has 31 full-time and seven part-time officers. It also has the largest budget within the borough's general fund, projected at $3.6 million in 2006. The position pays $5,625 a year, according to borough salary figures.

"Anything having to do with the actual police work, I want to leave to the professionals, in this case Police Chief (Michael) DeFrank," said Redding, a retired director of Personnel, Training and Force Development for the U.S. Army's Depot System Command. Until he resigned his council seat, he also served for nearly four years as chairman of the council's Finance Committee.

"I would look at myself as a coordinator and administrator for the police department," said Redding, who serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.

"I've wanted to do this since I was a teenager," said Bitner, who works in the Gabler Trucking Inc. warehouse. He said his experience as a law enforcement officer would prove useful in knowing what the department needs in terms of training and development.

Bitner served as a deputy sheriff with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department from 2000-03, when he was fired by Sheriff Robert Wollyung, he said. Bitner also was charged with driving under the influence in 2004 and was placed on the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for one year.

"It's not about what you get and receive in life, it's about becoming," Bitner said of those incidents. He said he has moved forward with his life.

Bitner said he would advocate adding additional officers to the department, expand its Crime Impact Team and add a bomb dog to the department's K-9 unit. Whenever there is a suspicious package or bomb threat that requires a dog, Bitner said the department has to wait for one to arrive from Cumberland County and pay for its services.

The candidate said the department also needs more officers trained in Spanish to deal with the growing Hispanic community.

"At some point in time, I think its going to have to be considered," Redding said of adding more officers to the force.

Within the next few years, much of the remaining open space in the borough will be turned into residential and commercial developments, at which time the staffing of the department will have to be re-examined, Redding said.

"Right now, I think we do an excellent job with what we have," said Redding. An in-depth staffing study of the department needs to be done before any recommendations are made on whether to expand the force, he said.

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