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W.O. Council Candidates Make Case to Voters

Eight vie for four open seats

By Sarah Turnbull
The Tube City Almanac
October 31, 2021
Posted in: Politics & Elections, White Oak News

White Oak residents on Tuesday will select members of council and decide whether to retain their mayor.

The Democratic ticket includes Lisa Pitchford for tax collector; with David J. Pasternak, George Dillinger, Ken Robb and Kenneth Obusek as members of council. The Republican ticket includes Julie Opferman, Jason Russell, Joelle Harbert and Loree Scharritter running for members of council.

There are four seats available on council. Dillinger, Opferman and Robb are incumbents.

Incumbent Mayor Ina Jean Marton faces a last-minute challenger, write-in candidate Kelly Doyle. (See related story.)

Candidates from both parties expressed a common desire to be accessible to residents, and to give locals more opportunities to participate in government.

For Republican council candidate Jason Russell, a sense of personal responsibility compelled him to run for office.

“I’ve lived in White Oak for 41 years. I first ran for council in 2005. I’m interested in current events, so I figured it might as well be me,” Russell said.

A self-employed food distributor, Russell’s top priorities include managing the budget, improving code enforcement, increasing public participation in government, and replenishing a dwindling police force.

“I collected 1,000 signatures back in 2003 to stop the police force from being disbanded. I see myself as part of a new, diverse group trying to change the established political machine,” Russell said. “I’m looking to be more accessible, to give people more opportunities.”

David J. Pasternak concurred, citing code enforcement and a desire to help others as his main reasons for running again. He previously served on White Oak council as a member from 1995 to 2019, and as its president from 2000-2002, 2010-2013, and 2017-2019.

“I have always believed in helping others,” Pasternak said. “I would like to be given that opportunity to assist our residents again and make this community a place where we have activities for our youth as well as our elderly residents.”

Pasternak also emphasized the importance of bringing in new businesses and bringing residents together.

“We need to ensure we continue to bring in new businesses into White Oak so that we have a viable tax base. We need to develop activities for both young and old in a post-Covid environment for the residents and make use of our Community Center.”

Kenneth Obusek said that it’s important for elected officials to put residents first.

“I make no promises but will say I will work hard to always keep the residents as my number-one priority as I too am a resident of the borough, so any decisions we make affects my family also. I see some things that need adjusted (or) changed and I plan to work as hard as possible to make those happen.”

George Dillinger works in the finance industry and stressed the importance of strong fiscal discipline in the borough.

“My background in banking for the past 37 years has provided me with the experience needed to make the best and most fiscally responsible decisions during budgeting times and the expertise needed to finance the important infrastructure improvements that have been long overdue in our community.”

Infrastructure improvements remain a top priority as well. Julie Opferman said she’s running for re-election because she wants to finish the projects she started two years ago.

“I want to complete the improvements the Parks and Recreation Board started. These projects include the Heritage Park project, fixing the ball fields, finding creative ways to utilize the community center, and continuing the much-needed improvements to our borough infrastructure,” Opferman said.

Harbert and Scharritter could not be reached for comment.

Polling stations will be located at White Oak American Legion, Wesley United Methodist Church, Sampson’s Mills Church, St. Angela Merici Church, Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co., and the White Oak Borough Municipal Building. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. To find a polling station, visit the county’s website.

Sarah Turnbull is a freelance writer in Irwin. She can be reached at sarahturnbull323@gmail.com.

Originally published October 31, 2021.

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