Learn the field: Eight Democrats, one Republican running for four council seats in State College

Nine candidates are vying for four open seats on State College Borough Council this election cycle.

Eight Democrats and one Republican will seek nominations on Primary Election Day — May 21 — to appear on the general-election ballot in November, according to recent filings with the Centre County Election Office. Candidates include a former state representative, two Penn State students, a Penn State assistant dean, a recent graduate of the university and three incumbents.

Catherine Dauler, who served from 2000 to 2007 and is in her fourth non-consecutive term, is the only incumbent with an open seat who will not run for re-election. She has reached her term limit for the second time.

“Nine candidates may seem high but in the past when more Republicans were running for office, the numbers of Democrats and Republicans would have been about four or five for each side,” said Dauler in an email.

Members of the seven-seat council serve four-year terms. In this cycle, voters in each party’s primary may nominate as many as four candidates to appear on the November ballot. Each announced candidate has filed to appear on his or her party’s primary ballot; none has cross-filed.

Here’s a look at who’s running.

The candidates

Lynn B. Herman, the sole Republican candidate, is a former state House representative, having served from 1983 to 2006. He is a 1974 graduate of Philipsburg-Osceola High School and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

“As a resident, I feel a need for Borough Council to focus on neighborhood preservation, our community parks, open spaces, developing a community-friendly downtown district, and make necessary improvements of our local streets,” Herman said in a press release.

After serving as a state representative, Herman was chairman of College Township Council. He also started a government-relations and business-development consulting practice and is president of Hometown Sports magazine and its web counterpart.

Locals vote at the Walker Township Municipal Building in this file photo taken in May 2018. May 21 is the primary election date this year. Phoebe Sheehan Centre Daily Times, file

David J. Brown, an incumbent seeking reelection, is a retired clinical psychologist, adjunct psychology professor and former director of Penn State’s counseling and psychological services. His volunteer work has included the State College Land Trust, the State College Food Bank, Centre Volunteers in Medicine and pro bono counseling services.

As a council member, Brown said he wants to maintain State College and its neighborhoods as an outstanding place in which to “live, work, play and raise a family.” He’s committed to expanding affordable housing, safety nets and shelters for the homeless and to creating a “climate of social justice and inclusion for all,” he said.

Brown said his commitment to public service, skill sets and “rich experience” as a council member make him an ideal candidate. He and his wife Laura raised two daughters in State College.

Thomas Dougherty III, a Penn State sophomore, is running for borough council as a Democrat. He said he will commit to “promoting equitable values, fostering sustainable growth, and developing affordable living in Happy Valley,” according to a press release. Dougherty has worked with different communities within State College, including Penn State student government, borough council members and the philanthropy community, for which he has led several efforts, said the release.

Janet Engeman, another incumbent, is a Centre County native who grew up in Bellefonte and Houserville and was first elected to council in 2015. She has been extensively involved in environmental issues as a private citizen and a council member, according to a campaign statement.

As a council member, she serves on the Spring Creek Watershed Commission and the Parks Capital Committee. As a private citizen, she is a founding member of the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition and chairs the environmental committee in the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, among other efforts. Her priorities include human rights and inclusion, pedestrian safety and addressing budget problems, she has said.

Engeman “believes we are one community, and wants to promote more synergy and transparency for the mutual benefit of both the town and the university,” she said in a statement. She lives with her husband.

Jackson J. Fitzgerald, a senior at Penn State, is running for borough council as a Democrat. He declined to comment on his campaign platform.

Jesse Barlow, a council member since 2016, is running for a second term. A Penn State computer science and engineering professor, he and his family have lived in the State College area since 1981 and in the borough since 2003.

During his council tenure, Barlow has worked on immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights and environmental issues such as funding the preservation of the Meyer-Everhart farm, according to a campaign press release.

For his latest council run, Barlow thinks State College “must continue fiscally responsible growth that reduces our carbon footprint, sustains our beautiful neighborhoods, embraces State College’s diversity, works toward creating a future that attracts young professionals and families, and respects the rights of long-term and student residents,” according to the campaign.

Candidate Peter Marshall served as State College borough manager for 17 years until 2003. He also served as borough manager for 23 years for several other municipalities in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Delaware before coming to State College.

“I love State College’s welcoming culture, the diverse and vibrant population, the family-friendly neighborhoods and community organizations, and the way we value our neighborhoods and work to preserve them,” Marshall said in a statement. “I’m excited to have this chance of earning voters’ trust to serve.”

Marshall owns a consulting business and has experience in strategic planning, recruitment and municipal governance.

Candidate Deanna Behring, an assistant dean in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is another longtime State College resident. She said she wants the borough to “forge a path forward that is fiscally smart and creative ... inclusive of new ideas, but builds on and never forgets what makes State College special.”

She wants to promote the economy, the environment and equity while focusing her platform on creating new jobs; protecting and improving green space, walkways and bikeways; and ensuring fairness and access to opportunities for all members of the community, she said. She lives with her husband and has two adult daughters.

Candidate Brent Rice, a 2018 Penn State graduate and five-year borough resident, works in the university’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations. His stated platform centers on community accessibility, affordable living, transparency, innovation, historical pride and government accountability.

Rice’s campaign “is born both out of frustration with the current system and a positive vision for the future that is possible,” he said in a press release. He was a student government leader at Penn State and helped implement the “You Are Welcome Here” banner project downtown.

Correction filed at 3:28 p.m. March 25: An earlier version of this report misidentified Dougherty’s year in school.

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