Top drama Tuesday will be in Akron

By on October 30, 2013


Local election preview

DENA REEDY Review Staff

, Staff Writer

Voters in the Borough of Akron will have choices to make when they head to the polls in the General Election next week to elect members of council and a mayor.

Four-year seat council seat

Kay McElhenny is running as an Independent for the four-year council seat. However, that was not his original intention. He will face Incumbent Republicans Perry K. Lorah, Justin M. Gehman, Thomas Murray and Republican Earl Shirk on the ballot.

McElhenny was appointed in March to serve as an interim member of council, taking the place of resigned council member David Landis, who served since 2009.

The 77-year-old McElhenny said he will be on the council until the end of this year, leaving two years of Landis’ term to serve. That seat, along with four other four-year seats on the council, are up for grabs this November.

McElhenny said he was left with one choice, to file a petition and become an Independent after being a Republican his entire life.

McElhenny said "I didn’t grow little green horns when I changed over; I am still the guy who loves Akron to the fullest."

"I have lived my entire life in Akron," he said. "I raised my family in Akron and operated my business, McElhenny Homes Construction, in Akron."

"In 1967, I began serving Akron as a member of the Lions Club and have been active ever since," he said. "I received the Melvin Jones Award and three Lion of the Year awards."

As a Lions Club member, his accomplishments have included: designing most of the buildings in Roland Park and Broad Street Park; designing and building the first Lions Club fair stand. The stand is still there being used and has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars, which are used elsewhere in Akron; and started Akron Day in the Park while president of the Lions Club.

"I have a long history of accomplishing many large and small projects for Akron," he said. "I love our town. Some people say I am Akron."

"I was appointed to fill eight months of a term" he said. "That term will end at the end of the year. Under law, I have to go on the ballot at the next election, so I filed a petition and here I am."

"I say that I am a Republican running as an Independent," he said.

Also running for the four-year terms are:

Perry K. Lorah, 50, is a graduate of Ephrata High School, Class of 1981. He is married to Beth (Martin).

"We were classmates in school," he said.

He is running for the four-year council seat.

"I have been employed with Hamilton Distributing company since 1983," he said, "and I am the office manager."

Lorah is active in church activities at Akron Grace EC Church.

"I am also a member of the Akron Lions Club since 1996," he said. "I am a past president of the club and hold the Melvin Jones Fellowship award."

"I am in my second term as borough councilman and currently the chairman of the streets," he said. "I also started the Akron Night at the Barnstormers and have been the chairman for the past seven years."

Why is he running again for council?

"I am a resident of Akron for 23 years," he said. "After 16 years I thought it was time to give some time back to this wonderful community. I was always interested in politics and public service and I decided to make it a part of my life."

Lorah is concerned about Akron.

"My first concern and a positive one is the coming together of the Rail Trail, " he said. "The public input we have had and the way all the surrounding municipalities are working together. I think it is just great."

Lorah’s other concern is the limited growth in business and industry in the borough.

"Because of this, the borough is challenged each year in keeping the taxes down and people happy," he said. "I enjoy being a part of the problem solving."

Thomas Murray, 66, has been married to Kathie for 46 years. He is seeking the four-year seat. He currently serves as council president.

"We moved to Akron in 1974," he said. "I am currently employed by ConAgra Foods of Omaha, Neb."

He is a life member of the Akron Volunteer Fire Company.

"I ran with Ephrata Ambulance as an EMT for a number of years and was a volunteer paramedic with Ephrata Hospital for five-plus years," he said.

Murray said he has been an Akron Borough councilman for 20 years.

"It has been a wonderful experience," he said. "I enjoy giving back to the community that has given so much to me. I look forward to serving four more years."

Murray said the primary issue facing Akron is the aging of its infrastructure: Water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and streets.

"Most of the infrastructure has been in use for 50-plus years and will require continued maintenance and upgrading," he said.

Earl Shirk was born in Berks County and moved to Lancaster County at the age of seven. He has lived in Akron for the last 22 years. He is seeking the four-year council seat.

He has been married to his wife, Nancy, for almost 37 years. They have one son, Josh, 24.

"I have been involved in real estate brokerage since 1983, and along with my partners formed Realty 1 in 1990 and have served as its president since its formation," he said. Shirk added that in 2011, Realty 1 acquired the local RE/MAX franchise and continues to do business as RE/MAX Associates of Lancaster, with offices in Lancaster, Ephrata, Willow Street and Elizabethtown.

In his spare time, Shirk enjoys contributing to community and charitable efforts and organizations. He has served on the Ephrata Community Hospital Board since 1997, chairing the board of Transforming Leaders International, and the board and executive committee of Horizon Initiatives until 2010.

"As part of these endeavors, I have had the privilege of helping in Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Russia and Kenya," he said.

Why is Shirk running for council?

"I am running for borough council because as a 20-plus year resident of the borough, I have come to enjoy the small town environment and felt it is time to give back to my home community," he said. "If the voters of Akron see fit to elect me to that position, I will do my best to insure the integrity and continued benefits derived from living in Akron."

Shirk said he does not think Akron faces any major issues at this time.

"Maintaining efficiency and financial integrity at the local level is essential to maintaining the continued viability of any organization and needs to be a priority for the council," he said.

Repeated calls to Gehman, who is also seeking the four-year seat, were not returned.

Two-year seat council seat

Daniel McCormac, a Republican, will face Democrat Marlyn Jefferson for the two-year seat.

McCormac, 43, is married and has four children. He has been a resident of Akron since 1998.

He has worked in the mortgage industry for 20 years and enjoys coaching Ephrata Youth Baseball. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, OMPH Church and the OMPH Athletic Association

McCormac said he decided to run for the council after he was approached by the Republican Committee and told there was an opening available if he was interested.

"With all that is going on in the world today, I thought this was my time to put up or shut up for my local community," he said. "If you want a better world, it starts locally. I have no agenda, only the betterment of the town for its residents."

Regarding the biggest concerns facing Akron, McCormac has a few.

"My wife and I love Akron and that small town feel, that was why we chose this town when we moved here from Philadelphia," he said. "My concerns are property upkeep, especially from the landlords. However, my ears are open to listen to the Akron taxpayers voice."

Jefferson, 67, is a retired supervisor from the Dana Corporation and works part-time for Boyo Transportation. He is a graduate of Reading High School and lived in Ephrata for two years before coming to Akron in 2005. He is also a member of the Ephrata Masonic Lodge No. 665.

Jefferson ran in the spring primary as a Republican for the four-year seat but lost by a few votes.

Jefferson said he was approached by the Democratic Party and asked if he would switch parties and run for the two-year seat on that ticket.

"I said yes," he said.

Jefferson said he is running because he wants to give back.

"I want to serve," he said. "I’m retired and I have the time."

If elected, Jefferson said one issue he wants to take care of is the Rails to Trails project. Jefferson said he understand the delays, but that it’s time to get moving on it.

"It needs to get done," he said. "A lot of people want it."

Mayor race

In the mayor race, Incumbent Republican John McBeth faces off against Independent Greg Fitzpatrick.

As previously reported, McBeth is in his fourth decade of public service to the town of Akron. He is currently running for his third term as the borough’s mayor.

Although he spent his childhood in Elizabethtown, McBeth moved to Akron in 1965 and has lived there ever since. He established his printing business, McBeth Printing, in 1976, and says that his heart remains in the small, northeast Lancaster County borough.

"I’ve lived in the borough for over 47 years and owned my own business for 37 years," he said. "It’s located in what used to be the Akron Public School near the traffic light at Main and 7th Street. You want to see a print shop, I’ll show you what a working print shop looks like."

The Akron Borough code stipulates that the mayor oversee the town’s police department. Other unofficial, but better known, duties involve representing the town at public and community events, and being a spokesperson for the press.

"It is expected that the mayor will be the face of the borough government and promoter of the community," he said in that article.

McBeth explained why he decided to run for mayor after serving 16 years on the council.

"(I) wanted to take on new and different challenges to serve the town of Akron.

Noting that it lacks the large industrial and commercial base of nearby Ephrata and Lititz, McBeth has worked to promote Akron by working with "various groups" that start the annual Shoe-In Celebration, which features a shoe dropping in the Broad Street Park on New Years’ Eve. He also teamed up with councilman Perry Lorah to begin another annual tradition, "Akron Night At the Barnstormers," where borough residents attend a baseball game at Lancaster’s Clipper Stadium every June.

One of the most visible ways that McBeth has improved the borough during his time as councilman and mayor, is expanding and improving the town’s recreation facilities. While on council, he worked with the borough’s Centennial Committee to revitalize and upgrade the Broad Street Park.

"Since that time, other improvements have been made to that park," he said. "These include a street hockey rink, pavilion, new playground equipment and the installation of modern restrooms."

This commitment to parks and recreation has continued into McBeth’s time as mayor. In recent years, he has been a vocal advocate of constructing a rail trail along the defunct Reading Railroad line that crossed the northern portion of the borough and once connected Lititz and Ephrata; and of developing the town’s newest park, Colonial Park, adjacent to this new trail.

"I have been active with the surrounding neighborhood in developing this park," he noted. "It was decided that it would be designed by neighbors, for neighbors. We did a survey to see what the surrounding community wanted to see in this park. To me, that was a very important concept."

McBeth said that he was pleased with these developments and promised to continue to work toward expanding and improving the borough’s park system in his anticipated third term as mayor. He said that he does not foresee any major challenges for the borough in the near future.

"Over the years, Akron has developed into a bedroom community. We aren’t known for our commerce or industry," he concluded. "My goal is to work with what we have and make Akron the best residential community in the county."

Fitzpatrick owns and operates a business in the borough and is a partner in three different real estate development corporations operating in the Commonwealth. He also sells life insurance.

He spent the majority of his life in the Annapolis, Md. area.

"We had a mid-life epiphany and decided we wanted to get into a slower paced environment, so we looked around for a bed and breakfast and my wife fell in love with the Boxwood Inn," he said. "We bought it 13 or 14 years ago."

Fitzpatrick also has a background in electronic engineering/telecommunications.

"I used that for a lot of my professional life in sales," he said. "The last time I worked for an organization was Samsung Electronics of America. When I separated from the company I was the national accounts sales manager."

He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club of Akron and a Navy veteran. He has two stepchildren and five grandchildren.

Fitzpatrick said, if elected, he would like to see the council function more efficiently and less expensively.

"I am hesitant to get involved with personal property issues without the law behind it," he said.

"My job would be having the police department operating effectively and report that effectiveness to the council. By definition of the borough code that is where my job begins and ends."

He also wants to make it easier for the citizens to obtain information on the activities of the council. He said the minutes are now posted on the website.

"That was an idea I had prior to being elected," he said. "I talked to a council member about that."

Fitzpatrick. who was a registered Republican, is running as an Independent in the General Election, after his petition in the primary was going to be challenged.

Fitzpatrick decided to voluntarily withdraw the petition.

He then submitted a new affidavit with signatures as an Independent.

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