The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 7, 2013

Judges interview council hopefuls

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — A number of Republicans and a couple of Democrats all dressed for a job interview came in a steady stream to the Cambria County Courthouse on Tuesday to sit in front of a three-judge panel and spell out why they want to fill a vacant seat on Johnstown City Council.

In a span of three hours, the panel of Judges David Tulowitzki, Patrick Kiniry and Linda Fleming interviewed 13 people who had contacted the court requesting appointment to the vacancy created by the death of Councilwoman Ann Wilson.

All told, 18 people initially said they wanted the appointment, but five either withdrew or did not show up for the interview.

“The interviews went well. We’re committed to making a decision” in a timely manner, Tulowitzki said.

With an earlier indication that an appointment would be made before the May 21 primary election, the judges are set to meet late this morning to discuss the candidates. No timeline was given for a decision.

The appointment likely would go into effect soon after the person is named and run through the end of the year.

Wilson, a Republican from the 8th Ward, died Feb. 19, starting the clock on the 45 days council had to name a replacement. Time ran out after efforts to agree on a replacement failed twice when members split 3-3.

Council was split over the appointment of Fred Mickel and Angela Gorzelsky, both interviewed by the judicial panel Tuesday.

A group of city residents supporting Mickel filed a petition in county court seeking his appointment to the vacancy, but President Judge Timothy Creany, in light of the split on council, opted to accept applications from anyone interested in the post.

Ian Miller, a Moxham resident with a background in technical writing and a commercial baker, said it is largely because of the reputation Moxham has been given in recent years that he is seeking the seat.

William Sampson, a native of Gaithersburg, Md., is an 8th Ward resident who moved to Johnstown because he views it as just the opposite of the stress and crime he’s lived with in the suburban Washington community.

“The stress level is so much less here. I think I might be able to give a different perspective,” he said prior to his interview.

Nicktown native and now a resident of Coopersdale, Lonnie Rietsche ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for council in 2007 and 2009. He thinks he can bring leadership to the body.

“I guess I just want to do what is right for the community,” he said.

Candidates said each judge posed questions to them focusing on why they wanted to fill the seat and what they would do to bring about the change most agreed was necessary for the good of the city.

Johnstown chiropractor Joe Taranto said he wants to enact change in the city.

One of the youngest candidates, Gary Tokar, 32, of the West End, is an unemployed restaurant cook whose brother and sister moved to other areas years ago because of the lack of opportunity in this region.

“I have plenty of ideas,” he said. “I’d like to see Johnstown as it was in its heyday when there were 55,000 living here.

“Unless things change, Johnstown is going to become a suburb of Richland Township,” he said.

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