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March 12, 2013

Tough act to follow for GOP chairman

With Ann Wilson’s passing, Slifko becomes head of Cambria party

— Joseph Slifko certainly was not expecting to become chairman of the Cambria County Republican Committee any time soon.

For about one year, the resident of Johnstown’s 8th Ward had been serving as the organization’s first vice chairman. Tragedy then struck. On Feb. 19, Chairwoman Ann Wilson, 47, died following a battle against an aggressive cancer.

She was diagnosed about three months earlier.

Her unexpected passing elevated Slifko, 48, into the leadership role, as per the county party’s rules.

“The first and most important thing is that I can’t replace Ann,” Slifko said. “She was special. She was one of a kind. We’re trying to live out her vision for the county.”

He is scheduled to serve out the remainder of Wilson’s term until June 2014.

“We’re pretty bullish on what he’s going to be able to do,” said Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr., a Cambria County resident.

Slifko, a Pennsylvania Highlands Community College business professor, has already put an advisory committee into place. He plans to soon announce his first vice chairman and other officers. “We give a lot of power to a chairperson to develop his own team,” Gleason said.

Wilson became chairwoman in March 2011 when Gleason stepped down from the position due to demands on his time from the state and national party. Gleason took over the county chairmanship in 1996 when his father, Robert A. Gleason Sr., who became the party leader in 1949, resigned from the position.

“It was always an orderly type of transition,” said Gleason. “This time, it was shocking.”

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