By Mary Spicer
Five candidates will be listed on Tuesday’s ballot vying for four seats on the nine-member PENNCREST School Board.
Four candidates — Mark Parker, Mark Gerow, Fred McDermott and Gerry Deane — successfully cross-filed, winning the right to be listed on both Republican and Democratic party lines. To cross-file for the primary ballot, each PENNCREST candidate had to collect a total of 10 signatures on nomination petitions from voters registered in their own party and have 10 signatures collected from voters in the opposite party on petitions circulated by voters registered in that party.
The fifth ballot candidate, Bill Mantzell, earned a slot on the Libertarian Party line by circulating nomination papers, the only route to being listed on the fall ballot for independent and “minor party” candidates. According to Melody Mushrush, Crawford County’s director of elections, Mantzell was required to collect signatures on his nomination papers equal to 2 percent of the number of votes received by the highest vote-getter in the 2011 school board race. With the high mark set by the 3,131 votes received by Chris Kondzielski, a total of 63 signatures was required. Mantzell collected 121 signatures.
After placing fifth in the primary race for one of four Republican slots and sixth in the Democratic contest to fill four slots, Luigi DeFrancesco, the board’s current president, recently announced a write-in campaign to retain his seat.
McDermott, Parker and Gerow are all incumbents, although Parker was appointed by the board to the board in late January to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Harold Shorts and Gerow was appointed in August to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Harry Hicks.
Breaking down the ballot candidates
A direct descendent of Meadville founder David Mead, Deane has deep roots in both Meadville and Crawford County. The owner of Dog House Quilts, Deane taught in Conneaut School District from 1982 to 2000, serving as president of Conneaut Area Teachers Association for four years. She taught in PENNCREST from 2000 until her retirement in 2012.
“When we moved (to Saegertown) 15 years ago, I said I would run for PENNCREST School Board when I retired from teaching,” she recalled. Deane is also a past member and past president of Saegertown Borough Council member and served as president of the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum in Meadville for a decade.
Gerow, a resident of the Borough of Cambridge Springs, had already earned his slot on the November ballot when he was appointed to the school board. Selected for his financial expertise, “I’m still learning and trying to figure out where we stand, but we seem to be holding our own,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that we’re in the same dire situation as other districts that have been in the news a lot.”
A Randolph Township resident, Parker was hearing a lot of complaints while out in the public as part of his job with Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which is headquartered in Cambridge Springs, and decided that seeking an appointment to the board would be one way to be able to both give a more knowledgeable response and have something to say about controlling taxes. Almost a year later, he’s in the race for a four-year term.
McDermott, a radiologist and Richmond Township resident, is seeking to remain on the board to continue the effort to maintain as many programs as possible without raising taxes.
Mantzell, a Randolph Township resident who moved to the area in 1975 and retired from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in 1994 as a waterways conservation officer in Crawford County, has experience working with federal and state agencies on all phases of environmental regulations. However, it’s property tax that has captured his attention in recent years.
“The more I got involved with property taxes, the more I got involved with the school board,” he said. “I’m saying that if I can help just a few people stay in their home, that’s my goal.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.