Wyoming County Democrats gathered Saturday morning at Shadowbrook for a pre-election breakfast.
Following the pledge of allegiance, emcee Abe Kukuchka acknowledged recently retired Tunkhannock Mayor Norm Ball and his wife Peg for a literal lifetime of service to Wyoming County. The couple got a standing ovation by those present.
County commissioner candidates Ernie King and Mick Cronin each had about 10 minutes to share why each is the better qualified of the four persons on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
President Judge Russell Shurtleff also made an appearance, noting it was probably 10 years previously that he did such a thing, as speaking in a political setting.
In 2009, he was involved in a spring primary seeking the office being vacated by retiring judge Brendan Vanston.
He said his goal since then has been to remain apolitical in an effort to show impartiality with the decisions he is called to make on the bench.
And, if there is a decision to be made that implies bias to a specific political persuasion, he has reached out to persons in the know for their astute advice.
He said that such was the case, when Democratic commissioner Ron Williams died last December, and he was put in the position of appointing a replacement.
He called on the County Democratic Executive Committee to advise him on filling the position, and was glad to follow their choice of Michael Stabinsky.
He asked for the voters in the audience to let their opinions be known in a question that asked about whether he should be given retention for another 10 years.
Judge Shurtleff said he has presided over 20,000 cases, criminal and civil, where “my only goal is to protect our community.”
He said perhaps the greatest compliment ever paid was from someone high up in the state police chain who told him drug dealers don’t like to come to Wyoming County because of his tough stands.
Shurtleff said that the retention matter was the last item on the ballot and he would appreciate their vote.
Of the commissioner candidates, King was up first.
“It’s been quite a summer being on the campaign trail and running into Republican head winds,” King smiled.
He was told that “opinions are bad for business” but he has heard many in his work as owner of K&K Tire barn, and is becoming a better listener.
King said that although a Democrat, he is not a socialist as that term gets twisted on the Internet. He added it is troubling to him that 90 percent of the wealth in America is controlled by three percent of its people. “That means there is a continual decline in the middle class, and we need to stand to restore our middle class values.”
Some local problems, he noted, were a decline by 4.5 percent of the population in the county since 2010, as that affects quality of life matters.
He spoke about the addiction crisis, and noted that although he is excited the county is getting $600,000 to help in the battle, he said everyone needed to do something more to help.
King said he has attended many municipal meetings throughout the county and believes the county’s planning commission has been dedicated to keeping an eye on developments in the gas industry.
He touted recreational opportunities in the county in the face of environmental responsibility and asked for the audience’s vote in just one month as “We are the party of 21st Century America.”
Cronin said he had a vision, and “We must strive for economic development.”
He spoke of a small business incubator, possibly spawned through the University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center.
Cronin said it would be a goal to see leadership councils created for business, farming and tourism which could provide input for a sustained pattern of growth and he would like to be a partner with them in coming up with 3-5 year plans to grow the county.
He said he would like to establish an oil and gas liaison that could advise from the challenges facing the county.
Cronin said he has visited many businesses for input in the campaign and sees a lot of potential to tap, “and I guess my job is to harness that.”
“So, why me?” Cronin asked.
He shared that he had grown up in Dublin, Ireland, and was blessed to get a four-year scholarship at the University of Scranton that opened doors, and he moved to Wyoming County which he sees as a great place to live.
Cronin said he has 23 years corporate experience at InterMetro Industries where since 2005 he has been an accounts manager, and he would like to use some of that experience to take the county into the next decade. He also noted that he had six years experience on the Tunkhannock Area School Board with a stint as its president,where the board managed a $45 million budget.
“I believe in public service,” Cronin said, “and now it’s time to give back to our community.”
Those in attendance also heard from statewide candidates for Superior Court Judge, Amanda Green Hawkins and Daniel McCaffrey; as well as Auditor General candidate Christina Hartman.