A walk on the campaign trail Cocalico candidates talk about Tuesday’s Denver Borough Council Cocalico School Board Write-ins for Denver Borough
LUCY RICCOMINI Review Staff
LUCY RICCOMINI Review Staff ALICE HUMMER Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Cocalico residents will head to the polls on Tuesday and will be met with some familiar and unfamiliar faces on the ballots in two contested races.
Two new candidates will vie for a seat on Cocalico’s School Board, while Denver Borough Council will vote in four new members.
Denver Council president Rodney Redcay is running unopposed as mayor to replace Adam Webber. This leaves his seat open along with Jim Brewer and Stephen Binkley, who are not seeking re-election. Michael Genesemer, who currently serves on council and was not going to seek re-election, has changed his mind and is a write-in Democrat candidate. John Palm will also be write-in candidate on the Republican ticket for council.
Christopher Flory, Matt Stover and Jason South are all new Republican candidates on the ballot.
Incumbents John Lorah, Douglas Graybill and Michael Messner are up for re-election on the school board. And new candidates Todd Stewart, Democrat, and Richard Brenner, Republican, are also vying for a seat on the board. Steven Richardson is not seeking re-election.
Below is a breakdown of the contested races and some background on each candidate running for those seats.
Richard Brenner is a new candidate for School Board. He and his family live in Denver.
Brenner has a bachelor’s of science degree in information systems and management and is an HRIS and business analyst for Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc. His children all attend Cocalico and his wife works as a paraprofessional at one of the elementary schools.
Brenner is endorsed by the Republican Committee. When asked what some of Brenner’s goals were, he supplied some of his literature that can be found on the voter’s guide.
"My only goal is to serve those around me to the best of my abilities with no preconceived personal agenda. This involves being held accountable to our students, residents, taxpayers, parents or guardians, staff, and the General Assembly (psba.org)."
Brenner would also like to thank the Cocalico Area Republican Committee for their endorsement, continued support and trust.
If elected, Brenner will strive to meet many of the same goals and aspirations the current board members have for the district.
"I believe having the ability to collaborate with others, we will be able to continue the successful work that our existing school board has carried out over the decades, impacting generations to follow. I look forward to joining the team, with the support of our community."
Douglas Graybill is seeking his third term on Cocalico’s School Board. He is a Cocalico graduate and has an electronic engineering degree from DeVry University. He currently is a co-owner of Foxchase Golf Course. He and his wife Kris have five children.
"I have five kids in the school system and want to be a part of it," said Graybill of seeking another term. "I liked to be involved in the behind the scenes. I felt I have a civic duty and this was a good way to give."
"I am very proud to be on the school board and associated with the other members," added Graybill. "I think what makes it work well is that no one person has an agenda. The bottom line is that we all agree for the best of the students of Cocalico. We try to be a balance for all students and keep arts, music and also the academics alive."
Graybill talked about his thoughts on the inevitability of raising taxes within the district and the challenges the board face with the lack of state funding.
"When we have to raise taxes, that is not done lightly at all. It’s raised for me and everybody. It’s frustrating, but we can only work with what we’re given. We have to play the cards we’re given and we get less and less revenue from the state. It’s a very stressful and agonizing time but we’re up against the wall. People need to tell Harrisburg to change."
Despite the funding issues schools face today, Graybill speaks highly of the board members at Cocalico and their ability to work together to ensure that the students receive the best education and are prepped for success.
"We have a great board and great superintendent to work with and I’m proud of the way things are going. We put key people in key spots as far as leadership. Bringing the right coaching in, we hired a new math coach. We get the right people to help teachers and students to succeed."
John Lorah is a resident of Stevens and is a CPA and partner with Leid, Lorah & Company, a public accounting firm. He graduated from Cocalico High School in 1981 and from Penn State University in 1985 with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. He and his wife Janice have three children. Lorah was elected to the school board 12 years ago and is finishing his third term and is seeking a fourth. He currently serves as the board’s treasurer.
Lorah took a few minutes to explain his goals as a member of the board.
"I originally sought election to provide my time and talents to be part of a team of school directors to continue providing the best educational opportunities to the students of Cocalico in the most cost efficient manner for our taxpayers. That is still my current goal," he said.
Lorah shares the same concerns for funding for our schools through property taxes and would like to see changes taking place on a state level.
"I hope to bring experience from serving the last 12 years on the board along with my financial experience to continue to assist with budget and property tax concerns," Lorah said. "Our PA legislators have not been able to change the current system of funding school districts through property taxes," explained Lorah. "So the budget and property tax concerns will continue to be the top priority of the school board as we understand this important fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers."
Michael Messner is a life-long resident in the Cocalico School District and is employed by DORMA Americas as a technical services representative. He is a 1974 graduate of Cocalico and Brownstown Vo-Tech. He and his wife Christine have two married children, Julie and David. Messner was elected to the Cocalico Board in 2005 and was reelected in 2009. He is seeking his third term.
Messner took a few minutes to explain why he is seeking re-election for the board.
"I believe in providing our youth better opportunities," he stated. "Allowing our children to have a great education, in a safe and caring environment is essential in my mind. Cocalico strives to provide our youth not only with a good education, but we provide other areas for our youth to excel. The arts, music and sports play an important role in developing our youth so they can succeed in today’s environment, all the while keeping them securely grounded."
Messner also understands there are difficult decisions the board faces and explains how the board’s main objective always has the students and residents best interests in mind.
"With the economy we live in today – along with the wishes many people have for the extra items – creates tough decisions a school board has to make," explained Messner. "In Cocalico School District, we do not have the business and industries that other school districts in the county have. So these wishes that some desire have to come from homeowner taxes. It is our job to keep those tax increases to a minimum, all the while putting our students first. This can be a difficult task."
As a life-long resident, Messner also feels passionate about the district he’s always called home.
"I am a conservative individual who deeply cares for this district which we call home. Whether it was coaching youth sports, serving on the East Cocalico Zoning Board or involvement with local service organizations, Cocalico was and is home."
Todd Stewart is seeking his first term on Cocalico School Board. He ran on both the republican and democrat ballot in May and is now the only democrat on the ballot for Tuesday. He also has a history with the district he calls home. He is a candidate that promises experience and a person who cares deeply about his community.
"My mother and my grandfather taught in the district, my wife and I both graduated from Cocalico," explained Stewart. "I have served as a coach (both wrestling and football), a Cub Scout leader; a leader in my church and as member of the board of LutherCare. I practice law in Harrisburg and believe that I have the kind of work experience that will be an asset as a school director.
"I have known many of the current school board members for a very long time, and believe I can work with them to achieve the excellence we need, continued Stewart. "Finally, and most importantly, I care about the schools and I care about our kids and their futures."
Stewart lives in Denver and works as an attorney in Harrisburg and has been practicing law for approximately 18 years. His goals are to ensure residents and students that they are promised a safe and educational environment at Cocalico.
"I want to make sure that our educational environment is safe and efficient; that our educational materials are relevant and functional, that our teachers are well trained and motivated. Most importantly, I want to see Cocalico at the top of the list of best achieving schools in Lancaster County."
Stewart would also like to see tax dollars used more efficiently.
"I am troubled by the fact that the Cocalico has some of the higher tax millage rates in the county and yet consistently is near the bottom of the list in terms of performance," Stewart said. "I think we need to work to hold all involved accountable for performance – that includes the school board, administration, faculty and students. I am not talking about more standardized tests, like no child left behind, which I believe has been a dismal failure, but rather, envision a future or better performance for our schools and then charting the course to get there.
"It seems pretty clear that most people don’t want to pay higher taxes," he continued. "I would then seek to focus our efforts on making sure our students are genuinely challenged to do the best work possible. We need to set achievable goals in this regard and then hold all accountable to achieve them."
Christopher Flory is a first-time runner for Denver Borough Council. He and his wife both graduated from Cocalico. They have one daughter, who graduated from Cocalico and Millersville University.
Flory has lived in Denver all his life. He served three years in the military and is currently a highway worker for East Cocalico Township.
"This seemed like the right time to run," Flory said of his decision. "This was a good thing to try."
Flory’s main concerns are that decisions are simply made correctly with everyone’s best interest in mind.
"Money should be spent correctly and more wisely on some items," said Flory of his goals if he is elected. "A lot of people have negative feelings and will not get you moving forward with negativity," he added. "You have to work together."
Flory also commented on the recent police issues Cocalico faced and expressed his gratitude for the police and the decision to stay with East Cocalico Police Department.
"I think it is a great service for the community, not just for Denver," said Flory. "We need to see it through to the end and make it work."
This is Matt Stover’s first time running on Denver Council.
"It’s time to step up and do our part," said Stover of his generation becoming more involved in its community. Stover is only 27 years old and is committed to making change in his community for a positive future.
Stover graduated from Garden Spot High School and has lived in Denver for past three years. He is a municipal worker and wants to serve his community as a member of Borough Council because he feels it is his duty.
"A want to become more involved and do my part," he said. "They are passing the torch onto us and we should step up to the plate and do what’s right for the borough."
Stover would like to see the police issue carried through with East Cocalico Police regionalization. Stover supports local group, C4CP and in their concerns for a regional police force as well.
"Public safety is a big concern, and we do the best with what we have," Stover continued. "But we do not want to go outside of means."
Stover would like to see streets and parks and recreation improve. He also wants to make an impression on the younger residents and see more involvement in the community from them.
"It might just show the younger generation to step up or you won’t have a community. It’s the future and it’s a shame there’s a lack of interest. If there’s no interest, there’s no future."
Jason South moved to Reinholds from New Jersey when he was in 7th grade and in 2004, he moved to Denver. South and is a 1999 graduate of Cocalico and is currently an electrician for Edwards Electric.
South was approached by Barry Weaver, Cocalico’s Republican chairman, who informed South there was a need for council members. So South began attending meetings.
"I liked what I saw with Denver Council and I thought it be a great way to help my community."
South was happy to see Denver stay with East Cocalico Police as well and shared some of his goals for his community.
"I would like to see responsible spending, keeping the budget in check and deal with communities needs as they arise."
John Palm is running as a Republican seeking a seat on Denver Borough Council via a write-in. He has lived in Cocalico area for 18 years and has lived in Denver for 10 years.
Palm is married and has three children. Palm’s wife, Barb previously served on Denver Borough Council. He was interested when he wife was involved, but became more interested with the police issue.
"I toyed with the idea prior to the primaries and it never came to fruition and then when police contracts and public service issues arose, I started becoming more involved than I had been," said Palm of his decision to seek a write-in.
Palm currently works as the safety manager for Martin Limestone, Inc. He is a Navy Veteran, serving four years active duty and eight years reserved duty out of Willow Grove.
As far as goals are concerned, Palm would like to see taxes remain where they are and proper police coverage, both of which piqued his interest as a candidate.
"They did a first review of the budget and I was a little bit interested in line items discussed at the Oct. 28 Denver Borough Council meeting for 2014," explained Palm. "I’d like to strive to maintain taxes that are currently in Denver Boro and keep them where they are."
Mike Gensemer, Democratic Write-in for Denver Borough Council
Mike Gensemer first stepped up to the plate to finish an open two-year term on Denver Borough Council. He is now running as a write-in Democrat for a four-year term.
Now Gesemer is stepping up to the plate a second time, focused on finishing the business of forming a Cocalico Regional Police Force.
On two occasions, Gensemer witnessed the near collapse of many people’s hard work toward ratifying forming a regional force for the Cocalico area. He described the "tipping point" which solidified his decision to run for a second term on Denver Council.
"I was a participant in deliberations addressing police protection. Two governing bodies were each meeting in an executive session. Legal counsel said we could not meet in a joint executive session because of the Sunshine Act. Since one person could walk over to the other municipal executive session, I did that," said Gensemer.
"I have put my heart and soul into the formation of a Cocalico Regional Police Department and I cannot sit by and watch it falter," said Gensemer. "That is why I have mounted a write-in campaign for Denver Borough Council," Gensemer said.
Gensemer and his wife, Brenda (Becker) are both third generation Denver residents. He retired in 2009 as Director of Field Operations and Chief of the Inspection Division. Gensemer works part-time as a municipal liaison for Building Inspection Underwriters of Pa. and assists boroughs and townships to remediate problems.
"We live in a unique community we call Cocalico. Denver is a very special part of that community. The time has come for the entire Cocalico community to pull together and make our area a better place to work, live and raise our families," Gensemer concluded.
More WRITE-INS, page A11