HERMITAGE — Four people are running for three Democratic nominations for seats on the Hermitage Board of Commissioners.
Incumbent commissioners William J. Moder III, Duane J. Piccirilli and Michael T. Muha, are seeking re-election, with Lucy Nicastro contesting one of the three nominations.
Moder and Piccirilli won four year terms in 2015. Muha finished third in the 2017 general election to win a two-year term.
The top three finishers will advance to the November general election, where the two highest vote-getters will win four-year terms and the third-place candidate will win a two-year term.
No Republicans have filed for the primary.
William Moder III
Moder, president of the board of commissioners, is seeking a fifth term in office.
He called the city’s neighborhood reinvestment program, where officials fund projects in established residential neighborhoods, is one of Hermitage’s most important accomplishments. Moder said the program has encouraged residents to take pride in their own properties.
“We’ve reinvested in our community and I believe the people have appreciated that, because we’ve seen people likewise invest in their own properties,” Moder said.
The city has not increased property taxes since before Moder took office 16 years ago while maintaining infrastructure, including 95 miles of roads, and emergency services, which he called a significant accomplishment.
“We’re fortunate as a city that we’ve had growth, and we’ve been able to manage our expenses and use taxpayer money wisely,” Moder said. “We still have very good services, and roads are also a big item.”
Moving forward, Moder said maintaining services was a key factor in attracting new residents and businesses to Hermitage, and in enticing existing companies and homeowners to stay in the city.
Muha is seeking a second term after being elected in 2017.
During his two years on the board, Muha said he was glad to not only see the board hold the line on city taxes and the perspective that comes with a close look at the city’s day-to-day operations.
“The city staff here is a great group of people, and we have a good board of commissioners that works very well with the staff,” Muha said.
Moving forward, Muha said his number one issue will be attracting residents and businesses to Hermitage. That would include retail outlets or restaurants, and increasing the city’s amenities, such as trail parks or ball parks.
Success on that front would, in turn, encourage young people and families to remain in the area. Muha said he experienced that dynamic first-hand when he returned to Hermitage to establish a law practice.
“A lot of young people don’t return to this area unless they’re visiting their grandparents or family, and that needs to change,” Muha said. “And part of that will be attracting family-sustaining jobs that pay a good wage.”
Muha said that while he was able to fulfill his campaign promises such as not raising taxes and strengthening neighborhoods through the neighborhood investment program, “the first year and a half wasn’t enough time” to accomplish everything he set out to, such as encouraging growth in the city.
“I’m asking to be re-elected because my job isn’t done, and I want to make Hermitage the best place that it can possibly be,” Muha said.
Nicastro, who was born in Italy and came to the United States in 1970 with her family, is seeking what would be her first term on the board.
Having both grown up and raised a daughter and four stepsons in Hermitage, Nicastro said she wanted to help grow commerce in Hermitage while also developing amenities for young people, which would provide more business opportunities and offer incentives for families to raise children in the city.
“I know our children are our future and we need to listen to the people in our community,” Nicastro said.
She said Hermitage also needs to attract more retail businesses, both to attract shoppers and encourage local spending.
“There’s no taxes on clothes in Pennsylvania, and yet people are going to Ohio for shopping,” Nicastro said.
Aside from running for commissioner, Nicastro said she and her family have been active in local charities and fundraisers, which helps her keep aware of what the needs in the community.
“In a world of problems, we have to be the solution,” Nicastro said.
Piccirilli, vice president of the board, also is seeking a fifth term.
Like Moder, he described the neighborhood investment program as a positive effort in Hermitage.
Earlier this year, the commissioners passed a rental property inspection ordinance, which Piccirilli said would help help maintain property values while allowing city staff to keep rental properties safe for residents.
“I think it not only strengthens but improves our neighborhoods, and also takes care of potential safety issues in rental properties for our more vulnerable citizens, such as seniors or families with young children,” Piccirilli said.
After the election, he said the city’s updated comprehensive plan would be a focal point for Hermitage officials. The plan will outline a plan for development in the city through 2030.
Part of the plan calls for rezoning certain portions of the city to better accommodate shifts in land use, while Piccirilli said city officials will continue efforts to attract potential businesses to Hermitage.
“I think everybody would like the opportunity to have jobs for young people in the Shenango Valley so that they don’t have to relocate,” Piccirilli said.
Aside from the board of commissioners, Piccirilli serves as the board of directors president for the Shenango Valley Animal Shelter, which recently completed its transition to a nonprofit organization and incorporates the six communities in the Shenango Valley. Piccirilli also has a background in social services, which he said helps bring a fresh perspective to the board of commissioners.
“The most important thing that I feel I can bring to the commissioners is I can listen, because I think people want to be heard, and people may not always agree with me but they know where I stand,” Piccirilli said.
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