Potential candidates get civics lesson in Franklin County class

January 24, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Penn State Cooperative Extension Educator Judy Chambers, left, speaks Monday to current and aspiring politicians from Franklin County, Pa.
Jennifer Fitch

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Monday night was civics class for about 20 people considering running for office in Franklin County, Pa., for the first time.

The Penn State Cooperative Extension hosted Thinking about Running for Local Office for people seeking election for county commissioner, township supervisor, borough council member and school boards director. Various positions are open in this year’s municipal election.

Penn State Educator Judy Chambers reminded the group of the May 17 primary election.

“Independents and third-party candidates cannot run for primary election in Pennsylvania,” Chambers said.

Chambers opened portions of the session with comments from Franklin County commissioners David Keller, Bob Thomas and Robert Ziobrowski.

“It means you work on behalf of the people and do your best to do what the people want,” Thomas said of elected office.

Keller touted the benefits of campaigning door to door.

“I met some wonderful people,” he said. “You realize how many people you don’t know.”

Ziobrowski said it’s important to talk to constituents about your positions because there are few opportunities to share them in the media.

Chambers described Pennsylvania’s government classifications, including distinctions between counties, cities, townships, boroughs and school districts. She said the state has 2,561 municipalities and 500 school districts.

She also shared information about responsibilities of township supervisors, borough council members and school board members.

“You don’t have to be a sewers expert, planning expert or roads expert to run for local office,” Chambers said.

In addition to residency, voter registration and age requirements, Chambers pointed out a quirk in state code. It calls for school board directors to have one extra qualification — be of good moral character.

Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers talked about dates, filing fees and requirements for signatures on nominating petitions. She also told candidates to consider what name they want to use, since that could affect write-in votes.

For instance, a man named John Scott could be registered as a voter as “John Scott,” but he could run as “Jack Scott” if that is how he’s best known, according to Byers.

“I recommend going with the name voters know you as. ... My suggestion is to keep it as simple as possible,” she said.

Tuscarora School Board member Larry Funk, Waynesboro Borough Councilman Wayne Driscoll and Greene Township Supervisor Travis Brookens told the attendees about their experiences running for office. They addressed time commitments, including meetings, committees and reviewing documents.

Garry Gontz of Chambersburg said the information from the class was valuable.

“I don’t know the average person understands what it takes to run for office. This is an eye-opener,” said Gontz, who has announced his candidacy for commissioner.

Shippensburg, Pa., businessman Terry Bigler said he intends to run for Southampton Township Supervisor. He said the class provided him with greater knowledge of the paperwork and requirements for seeking election.

“There are a lot of layers to go through,” he said.

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