2 vie for open council seat

Two city residents were interviewed by City Council Tuesday night, with one seat open after the resignation of Jonathan Williamson last month.

Gerry Fausnaught, a former councilwoman who has been out of city government for eight years, and James Gardner, a former intern with Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, answered council’s questions, most them focusing on how each would treat the next five months.

They were the only applicants who applied after the advertisement. Fausnaught, who attended the meeting, went first based on when council received the applications.

Gardner was out of town and was interviewed on the telephone.

Fausnaught immediately said it was sad that only two individuals wanted to be interviewed for the open seat.

“We need people to learn about government,” she said. “We need people to serve. It’s really awkward,” she said of the apparent apathy with so few people applying.

Councilwoman Liz Miele asked Fausnaught how she would feel about service for five months, after sitting on council for five or six years, going through many budget years.

“The budget is extremely important and drives whatever we do,” Fausnaught said to a question of what would be one of the priorities to finish out the year.

Fausnaught said she would love to have input in the proposed budget and see where the city can save and when it should or should not spend money.

Fausnaught, who went through many budget battles, and ran a campaign for mayor against Campana, said her family encouraged her to apply. The retired middle school principal and active Kiwanian, said the city needs a three-to-five-year strategic plan.

Both candidates were aware the budget is made up of 75 to 80 percent salaries and benefits, including healthcare.

Gardner, a history major at Penn State University, said he was preparing to enter graduate school but would be able to fulfill his duties as a member of council.

In taking a question by Councilman Derek Slaughter focused on what understanding he had of council’s role, Gardner said it was to represent the citizens, be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars and do what is in their best interest.

Fausnaught also answered that question saying there was little wiggle room in the municipal budget, which has some discretionary spending, but is primarly taken up by salaries, healthcare and retirement benefits.

When asked about his experience while interning at the mayor’s office, Gardner said he learned a bit about local level politics and how it has a direct impact on daily lives.

When asked what kind of interest he had for council that could do more to entice interest of younger adults, he said having an individual his age, 22, on council would help on that end.

Councilwoman Bonnie Katz asked Gardner if he would be willing to serve on other city committees or commissions and he said he would.

Gardner also said while growing up in the city he had seen few problems. He loved the city and was perhaps interested in future political aspirations.

Gardner’s thesis was a review of the mayor-council and council-manager form of government, primarily in cities with populations of 200,000 or more.

He said one takeaway was that cities with a council-manager government saw a decrease in voter turnout.

Councilman Randall J. Allison said he and his colleagues would deliberate and reach a decision that would be announced at Thursday’s council meeting.