Local officials encourage community to run for public office

The Centre County government teamed with Penn State extension on Wednesday to hold “Toss Your Hat in the Ring,” an informational workshop to help citizens considering running for local government office.

A panel of four local officials — Dennis Hameister, Harris Township supervisor; Robert Lumley-Sapanski, Bellefonte school board; Leslie Warriner, Millheim borough council; and Joyce McKinley, Centre County director of elections and voter registration — discussed the challenges, roles, responsibilities and rewards of public service.

McKinley offered a comprehensive explanation of filing a petition to be on an election ballot. Her advice focused on understanding how to fill out the paperwork, but she also stressed the importance of following campaign finance law. If a candidate mishandles campaign contributions, he or she can easily be disqualified from the election, according to McKinley.

The first day to circulate and file nomination petitions for the May 16 primary election is Feb. 14 and the last day is March 7. Candidate packets are prepared and can be picked up at the elections and voter registration office at the Centre County government Willowbank building in Bellefonte. McKinley said representatives in her office are prepared to answer any questions about filing, but will not offer campaign advice.

The county and local offices up for election this year are district attorney and jury commissioner, magisterial district judges 49-02-01 and 49-03-03, borough mayors, council members, tax collectors, auditors and constables, school board directors and precinct judge of elections, majority and minority inspectors.

The panel unanimously discouraged “single issue” candidates from running because the issue usually never gets resolved and the job requires consideration of all issues brought before government.

“I’ve been in this ballgame 21-years and I’ve seen candidates self-destruct being single issue candidates,” Hameister said. “You just can’t be a single-issue candidate in any township in Centre County.”

Aside from discouraging single-issue candidates, the panel spoke positively to the more than 25 people in attendance about their experiences in government.

“Serving is extremely rewarding and at a local level I have ended up truly not knowing who is a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian until election time,” Warriner said. “Everyone that I’ve worked for has been trying to reach a common goal.”

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi