Franklin County primary winners look to November

May 19, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Managing growth, controlling taxes and spending, and preserving farmland were talking points in the campaign leading up to the May 15 primary, which winnowed down the field of candidates for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners from a dozen to the four finalists for the November election.

On Nov. 6, voters will select at least two new commissioners for the three-member board from Republican incumbent Bob Thomas; David S. Keller, who finished second in the GOP primary; Cheryl Stearn, who topped the Democratic field; and fellow Democrat Bob Ziobrowski. The top three of that group will form the new board.

The candidates spoke this week about what got them past the primary and what will get them elected.

"I think I had a fantastic campaign committee, friends and my husband," said Stearn, 60, of St. Thomas Township. She knocked on a lot of doors since February, wanting to get to all 74 precincts, but "I soon found out this is a pretty big county."


Stearn said she believed she touched a chord with Democratic voters on issues such as the environment and "smart growth, which I think has resonance."

"My goal was to share my experience as chairman of the (Chambersburg) hospital board, president of the (Chambersburg) school board, vice president of Franklin County Area Development Corp. and my career as a real estate appraiser," said Ziobrowski, 56, of Chambersburg. "For people looking for qualifications and evidence of leadership, those experiences were important."

"I think I had a pretty positive message that resonated with the voters," said Keller, 37, of Chambersburg. "I believe they thought I had some of the better credentials in the group with my education in government and the law and my experience in information technology,"

Keller will receive his law degree today from Widener University.

His support of property tax reform, which would require legislative action in Harrisburg, and farmland preservation, also worked in his favor, Keller said.

"I heard over and over again from voters that it was critical to return someone with experience," Thomas, 52, of Chambersburg said of the pre-primary feedback he was getting. "Plus, the fact that they were satisfied with the way the county is being run."

"We still have, by a wide margin, the lowest taxes in central Pennsylvania and most of Pennsylvania," despite having to raise property taxes in recent years to pay for a new jail, the Day Reporting Center, new technology and mandated state and federal programs, the three-term incumbent said.

"Qualifications are important, but voters need to feel a connection with the candidate," said Ziobrowski when asked what he must do to win. "From now to November, I will be reaching out to voters for their thoughts and ideas ... I think that meeting of the minds will result in a great deal of support for me."

"In the fall, I'm going to knock on a lot more doors," Stearn said. "Republican doors, too."

"I've got to reach out to people who voted for other candidates," Keller said of the upcoming general election campaign. "Find out what issues concern them ... what issues are relevant to Republicans and Democrats."

"I think Bob and I will run a campaign of inclusion," Keller said.

"Farmland preservation must continue because of the rapid growth in the county, which is almost unmanageable due to a lack of legislation from Harrisburg," Thomas said. The county and township governments can do little to rein in growth because of current laws, but land preservation and keeping agriculture profitable are two ways to keep farms from disappearing.

Ziobrowski said farmland preservation is a growth management tool because "in the long run, it determines where the avenues of growth are and limits urban sprawl."

"I think smart growth is actually good for business," said Stearn, defining that as targeting growth in areas where roads, water, sewer and green space are in place. "Having a county that is financially sound is also good for business."

Farmland preservation, economic development and property tax reform are the issues Keller said he will stress in the weeks ahead.

"I think people are looking for openness and transparency" from county government, said Stearn, who wants more public debate on issues and far more information, including the budget, on the county Web site.

"I think there'll be debates on lots of things, which I think is a good thing," Stearn said.

Ziobrowski said he would open up government by holding some meetings outside of Chambersburg, televising them through cable or over the Internet, and an with an improved Web site "with budget, lease and capital expenditure information," he said.

If experience was a factor in the primary, it still will be in the fall, Thomas said. That experience includes making county government more efficient, working to preserve Letterkenny Army Depot and working with local governments through the Council of Governments, he said.

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