The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 15, 2010

Critz fills three positions on his staff

JOHNSTOWN — A former local news anchor and two staffers for the late congressman John Murtha will fill key posts in the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Critz.

The appointments come less than a month after Critz – a Johnstown-based Democrat who was himself a Murtha staff member – won the 12th Congressional District seat in a special election spurred by longtime lawmaker’s February death.

• Matthew Mazonkey, who had worked as Murtha’s spokesman, will serve as Critz’s chief of staff.

• Jim Penna, known for his local television news work, has been appointed as Critz’s district director.

• Noel Holmes – also a former Murtha staff member who worked with nondefense appropriations – will be serving as legislative director for Critz.

Mazonkey is a native of Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County, and graduated from Pitt-Johnstown in 2005.

He was hired by Murtha that year and most recently was the congressman’s communications director.

In addition to his duties as chief of staff – a job that had been held in Murtha’s office by John Hugya – Mazonkey also will be Critz’s military legislative assistant.

“Having worked with Mark for the past five years, I was able to witness firsthand his work ethic, his loyalty and his love for western Pennsylvania,” Mazonkey said Tuesday.

“It is these traits that will make him an excellent member of Congress, and I am honored that he asked me to be his chief of staff.”

Penna will take the job Critz had held in Murtha’s office.

He worked as television news director and anchor for Fox and ABC affiliates in the Altoona-Johnstown-State College market. His job was phased out when FOX8/ABC23 dropped their local news coverage two years ago.

Since then, he has done some private communications consulting for commercial and nonprofit organizations. He also has been a freelance writer.

Penna took a job a week ago as Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson’s communications director. But this week he advised Thompson that he would be leaving the $77,000-a-year Harrisburg position to accept the job with Critz.

Though his quick departure from the Harrisburg job is awkward, he praised Thompson for being understanding of his decision.

“I’m thrilled to be coming home,” Penna said. “I just love my home region, and I’m so excited to be part of the Murtha legacy.”

His goal, he said, will be to continue the work on economic development in the district because “the best tribute to John Murtha will be to bring jobs to Johnstown.”

He will be wrapping up his job in Harrisburg by June 30 and plans to be in the 12th district office – at 647 Main St. in downtown Johnstown – the next day.

The opportunity to join Critz’s staff means Penna will not have to relocate his family – his wife, Elizabeth Bolton Penna, who is an attorney and part-time assistant district attorney in Cambria County, and his three children. The family lives in Adams Township.

 

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