2011-04-28 / Front Page

7 Republican Candidates For Commissioner Speak At Forum

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Seven Republican candidates for Fulton County commissioner had their first opportunity to publicly speak and field questions from constituents last Thursday evening during the first local pre-election forum.

Organized by the Fulton County Republican Committee, the forum was headed by moderator and committee chair Bonnie Mellott Keefer. Each of the seven candidates, which included Rick Buterbaugh II, Michael Chilcote Sr., Craig Cutchall, Joseph Hagerty, Ricky Leese, Rodney McCray and Lisa Mellott-McConahy, were afforded time for introduction and closing statements.

In addition, each candidate was given two minutes to answer each of the seven questions submitted by those in attendance. The event was recorded and broken down into eight online segments that can be viewed at youtube.com by using the keywords “Fulton County GOP Commissioner.”

 Using an alphabetical order for seating and line of questioning, Buterbaugh, a Fulton County native, took the podium and promised to bring the same dedication and commitment to all of Fulton County that he has given to McConnellsburg residents during his four terms of office as borough councilman.

Under questioning, Buterbaugh noted he is a registered Republican because he believes in the ideals and strengths of the party. If elected, Buterbaugh stated he would still need to keep supplemental employment with Mercersburg Academy or through another organization. However, he would still devote 100 percent to the position of commissioner.

According to Buterbaugh, he supports both Second Amendment Rights and is 95 percent opposed to abortion. Buterbaugh stated certain circumstances such as rape should be taken into consideration.

Moving onto finances and how the county is currently operated, Buterbaugh said he did not see the need for a turning lane along Route 16 in front of JLG Industries. He said the need was eliminated due to the second plant entrance being opened off Cito Road and the county’s spending $200,000 for the proposed project is not warranted merely on Route 16 traffic alone.

Buterbaugh stated he was unaware of too many changes that would need to be made under the next board of commissioners. An exception would be improved communications between the staff as a whole and commissioners.

 Chilcote stated in his opening remarks he is a native of Coatesville, Pa., but has resided in McConnellsburg Borough for the last 20 years. His move to Fulton County was prompted by his desire to help his aging parents, who resided in the Robertsdale area. Currently serving as mayor of McConnellsburg Borough, Chilcote stated his time as a member of the Mc- Connellsburg Fire Co. has left him with the impression that the county’s portion of the JLG turning lane project could be better spent elsewhere. He added he could not remember being dispatched to an accident scene in that area in the past.

As far as changes to county government, Chilcote stated he would look specifically into efficiency of operations. “There’s not a lot that you can say until you get in there,” said Chilcote. “I would like to get in there and get my hands dirty.”

Chilcote said if elected to a four-year term of office, one of the greatest challenges for the commissioners will be reducing county debt while encouraging industry and retail to move into the area by using alternative measures.

A former Democrat, the Mc- Connellsburg man said he switched party’s many years ago after not agreeing with the direction the party was taking. Chilcote publicly promised to be an honest and hardworking person for this “beautiful county and wonderful people.” He added he is also willing to research any question and respond with an answer.  In his first election for county office, Commissioner Cutchall was appointed 1-1/2 years ago by Fulton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Douglas Herman to fill a vacancy on the three-person board. Having retired two years ago from the Forbes Road School District, Cutchall was also a longtime basketball coach for the Lady Cardinals basketball squad.

Cutchall stated he brings dedication to the job as well as a willingness to work with everyone. A lifelong Republican, Cutchall stated he loves both the party’s conservatism and ideals. “We need to take a look at our families and communities and do what’s best for them,” said the incumbent. “ ... We need to count our pennies.”

Cutchall went on to say he is an advocate of the right to bear arms and has a very strong belief in life at conception. “Who is an advocate to the unborn? Life is precious,” he said. He also noted that a price can’t be put on life, and therefore he supports the JLG turning lane project and the county’s $200,000 share in project expenses.

Cutchall stated he would like to see an increase in local industry, but the county should strive to balance change with maintaining a rural way of life. If elected, he would like to do more with less through creative thinking.

 A fourth-generation builder, Hagerty, said he was familiar with the requirements to be a commissioner and was willing to move aside and allow his business partner to run their company in his absence. Recently named Fulton/Franklin County Homebuilder of the Year, Hagerty said his business has allowed him to work with budgets in excess of $7 million.

He further stated his grandfather and great-grandfather were responsible in teaching him to hunt and fish and therefore ingrained in him support of the Second Amendment. Hagerty said he does not agree with abortion and mirrored other candidates’ opinions that life starts at conception. “A child is a blessing from God,” the Warfordsburg man said.

In touching on the JLG turning lane project, Hagerty, 48, said the project is needed as a safety function for truck and traffic progression. In addressing future changes at the county level, Hagerty stated the bond between the townships and the county needs to be strengthened in order for unnecessary mandates to be properly addressed. “We need to fight as one county,” he said.

He further suggested more public town meetings, advertising the county’s events/meetings on the Web and an overall tightening of the belt in striving to balance the budget. Hagerty concluded a need exists to reaffirm our commitment to keeping a close-knit community.

“We need to draw a line in the sand and come up with common sense solutions,” he noted.

 Realizing the need for a fulltime board of commissioners, Leese, a former county auditor, said he was prepared to turn over the daily operations of his Needmore farm and farmers’ market to his children. He added it falls in line with his philosophy of working a little harder, working a little longer and giving people just a little bit more.

Leese reiterated he is a lifelong Republican and finds that the party is closer to his own beliefs, family values and conservatism. Questioning why issues such as gun rights and abortion were asked at the forum, Leese stated he wasn’t sure how many guns he really did own and pointed out hunting and guns are a part of every Fulton Countian. He said he did not support abortion, but there should be exceptions for rape and life-anddeath situations.

Even though he noted he has been out of office for many years, he would consider looking into issues ranging from how contracts are put out to bid to making budget cuts here and there if elected commissioner.

A challenge for the next board will be compensating for less money coming in from the federal and state government while addressing issues such as increases in pensions and health insurance.

“We need to hold tax increases to a minimum and not create undo hardships,” said Leese.

 Political newcomer and southern Fulton County native, McCray stated his interest in building trades began at the young age of 14 but has allowed him to see projects through from beginning to end. In addition, having worked as a missionary in Sengal, West Africa, for 20 years, McCray said he has spent much of his life serving people.

McCray stated he was a supporter of the Second Amendment and knows of many countries where residents do not retain the liberty or right to bear arms. He also said he firmly opposes the freedom of choice when it comes to the topic of abortion. On the issue of the JLG turning lane, Mc- Cray stated he travels Route 16 daily and sees a great deal of traffic in the morning and evening hours. He further pointed out the need for industry to survive and prosper.

McCray made reference to the current economic crisis as well as the challenges that lay ahead for both individuals and families. He stated he would be open and able to meet to constituents and hopes to increase county awareness of county government and issues.

McCray noted in talking with local residents, much of the conversation surrounds economics and spending of money. “I don’t foresee the economy turning around,” said McCray. “We need to balance the budget and open communication to unite all three areas of the county.”

 Former county employee and 911 coordinator, Mellott- McConahy said she was introduced to the political arena many years ago by her parents, Stanley and Janet Mellott. Having recently changed her political affiliation from Democrat, Mellott-McConahy said the change was in order to adequately support her parents in their political aspirations.

Aware of what the commissioners’ position entails in terms of time, she stated this is no such thing as a part-time commissioner. She is currently employed as a consultant on an as-needed basis.

Mellott-McConahy announced her support of gun rights and opposition to abortion and moved on to spending by the county in conjunction with the JLG turning lane project. She said $200,000 sounds like a lot of money to invest at this time and added she would need to review the budget further.

Changes suggested by the lone female candidate for county commissioner would be budget cuts where necessary and including the commissioners’ votes on agenda items to help the public better understand where officials stand on the issues. According to Mellott-Mc- Conahy, challenges lying ahead include preparing for cutbacks at the federal and state levels, loan repayments and increasing healthcare costs.

“Each candidate brings something different ... . We could work together as a team,” she said. “I will be a commissioner for the entire county and not just the county seat.”

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