Friday, October 23, 2015
The quality of many of this fall’s candidates seeking public office in the Mahoning Valley impressed members of The Vindicator’s Editorial Board during interview sessions earlier this month.
The race for Austintown Township trustee serves as a perfect case in point. Each of the three candidates – the incumbent Rev. Rick Stauffer and challengers Andrea Paventi and Bruce Shepas – offers constructive forward-thinking platforms, demonstrates proven commitment to the betterment of the township and professes strong allegiance to fiscal responsibility.
In short, the growing suburb – second only to Boardman in population in the Mahoning Valley – would be well represented should any of the three candidates be elected Nov. 3.
Bruce Shepas, who finished slightly behind township powerhouses Ken Carano and Jim Davis in 2013, threw his hat into the ring again this year because, in his words, he “wants to represent Austintown as a resident, a taxpayer, a businessman and a father – not as a politician.” As co-owner of Austintown Bounce family center in the township for the past eight years, he already has demonstrated his sincere faith in and service to township families.
His platform for guiding the township through 2019 displays a solid understanding of Austintown’s assets and its liabilities. He seeks to bring new business and job growth to our township to shore up its tax base. Additionally, he vows to ensure the community’s infrastructure is up to date and capable of adequately handling additional commercial and industrial growth. As a business owner, he vows to monitor township spending closely to ensure it is operated as a successful business enterprise.
The second challenger in the race, Andrea Paventi, shared many of Shepas’ goals and platform planks. Over the past 20 years of working in the front lines of the private nonprofit sector, she has become well versed in funding issues, grants, budgets and audits. “I understand fiscal accountability to taxpayers,” she asserted.
She also understands some of the immediate challenges facing the township. Among her most pressing priorities if elected would be transforming the blight of the dilapidated former Fitch High School smack dab in the center of the township into productive commercial development, exploring the great potential of development of the Meridian Road corridor near the soon-to-be widened Interstate 80, and working more closely with Youngstown and other communities on cost-saving partnerships for township needs. To promote transparency, she would work toward ensuring township budgets are posted online for all to see. All are excellent priorities.
The incumbent in the race, the Rev. Rick Stauffer, senior pastor at Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the township, also articulates strong priorities. Rev. Stauffer, however, has one key ingredient that his two challengers lack: proven leadership experience in the role of trustee.
Although he has never been elected to the post, Rev. Stauffer has twice served out yearlong appointed terms of departing trustees – David Ditzler’s in 2013 and Lisa Oles’ in 2015. As a result, he has direct front-line experience in the office to understand the intricacies of how township government works, firsthand knowledge of the current problems facing the community and established relationships with the needed movers and shakers to facilitate getting things done. Once elected, he would need no prep time to hit the ground running.
And he has plenty of projects, proposals and philosophies on which to keep on the fast track over the next four years. Among them are his commitment to further economic and commercial growth in the township, monitoring the township budget with an eye on savings, and creating a strategic vision for the township to guide it through the years and decades ahead.
As such, The Vindicator endorses Rev. Stauffer to his first elected term in the Nov. 3 general election.