There are four candidates vying for three positions as Clearfield County Commissioners that voters will choose between when they trek to the polls Tuesday.
Incumbents Tony Scotto of DuBois and John Sobel of Clearfield — both Republicans — are running against Democrats Lisa Kovalick of Clearfield and Dave Glass of DuBois.
The Progress asked each candidate two questions and to provide background information about themselves. The first question on the county’s financial situation appears today, while a question about overcrowding at the Clearfield County Jail will appear in Monday’s edition of The Progress.
Sobel is a lifelong resident of Clearfield County and resides in Lawrence Township. He has been serving as Commissioner since 2008. He graduated from Clearfield Area High School, Vanderbilt University and the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and has practiced law in the county since 1980. Municipalities he represents include Covington, Girard, Graham, Knox townships, Mahaffey Borough and Benezette Township in Elk County. He’s also involved with the Shaw Public Library Board of Directors, the Clearfield YMCA Board of Directors, and the Bilger’s Rocks Association. Sobel is the Commissioner Representative on the Clearfield/ Jefferson Heroin Task Force, as well as the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority and belongs to the National Rifle Association. He has a daughter, Johnna Sobel Pyne, who teaches third grade for the Clearfield Area School District and he worships at the Presbyterian Church of Clearfield — where he has served as an Elder.
Glass was born and raised in Clearfield and is a 1992 graduate of Clearfield High School. He earned a B.S. in Computer Science in 1997 from Penn State and is currently enrolled in a Software Engineering Master’s program. From 2000 through this past July, Glass worked at Allstate insurance in Clearfield and ran the agency for the past 15 years — the last 10 of which he was majority owner. He served on the Clearfield School Board from 2007-2013, the last four years as President. Glass has been active as a youth sports volunteer in Clearfield and DuBois for the past 15 years and enjoys local youth sports, broadcasting and recreational flying. He and his wife have lived in DuBois since 2015 with their four sons.
Scotto is currently serving as commissioner and was the county controller prior. He is a graduate of Seton Hall University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. Scotto is also a successful small business owner. Before owning his business, he was a financial advisor, a licensed specialist at a local bank and a client services specialist at Prudential Retirement Services. He belongs to the Knights of Columbus Council #519 in DuBois and is a parishioner of St. Catherine’s Church. Scotto is married to his wife, Rossella, of 22 years, and has two children, Mario and Monica.
Kovalick began her career in Human Services 32 years prior to working in Community Development at Clearfield County. Over the last 11 years, she has become very familiar with our county having assisted county departments, municipalities and organizations by developing and implementing, infrastructure, community revitalization practices, new and rehabilitated housing, public safety, criminal justice and human services programs. Kovalick serves on the board of directors for the Clearfield County Housing Authority, Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging and the Clearfield Revitalization Corporation. Statewide, she serves on the NW Regional Housing Advisory Board and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s Community Development and Housing Advisory Board. She’s a lifelong resident of Clearfield County, having grown up in Clearfield Borough and graduated from Clearfield Area High School in 1981. Kovalick resides in Lecontes Mills with her husband, Kenneth Kovalick Jr., of 36 years, and has three adult daughters and two grandsons.
How do you plan to manage the county’s financial situation?
Sobel: “I plan on managing the county’s financial situation by being fiscally conservative and following the same practices that we have put into place since 2008. Last year, the commissioners had to make significant cuts to most of the county departments budgets to bear the significantly increased costs associated with the County Jail and Children and Youth Services. We also had to raise taxes.
“There obviously won’t be a tax increase this year as the taxes can’t be raised as a matter of law. However, we can certainly continue to be very careful as to expenditures and continue to make cuts wherever possible. At this point, it looks like our efforts are succeeding. A recent look at our checking accounts shows that the county now has accumulated approximately $4.2 million dollars despite the enormous cost increases for the jail and Children and Youth Services brought on by the county’s drug crisis.
“If our reserves continue to remain at similar levels, then we may not need to incur a tax anticipation note as we have done in the recent past. We won’t know until the end of November. However, our money in the bank may be enough to carry us into the spring when tax revenues begin to come in.
“Finally, the county’s long term debt will be virtually eliminated by the end of the year.”
Glass: ”The county’s financial situation has been addressed piecemeal for some time, without a longterm strategic plan. One of the keys to effective leadership is setting long term goals and enabling all stakeholders to work together to achieve those goals. I would have a short-term and a long-term plan.
“In the long term, I would push for a financial “roadmap” for the county. I would engage business owners, county department heads, surrounding counties and anyone else with relevant experience to provide input. Then we could sift through the ideas and find consensus.
“In the short term, I would encourage more effective and ongoing communication between department heads and the commissioners. I attended the public budget hearings two weeks ago and it was obvious that in many cases, the communication is intermittent or even nonexistent. The commissioners were caught off-guard on many items at those meetings; budget prep should be more of a collaborative, year-round process rather than just one meeting per year.”
Scotto: “I would continue to manage the finances as we have been doing currently. We had a clean audit for 2018; our fund balance is close to $4 million. The undesignated fund balance has increased to $1.7 million. At the end of October, our bank accounts have a balance of $4.2 million. That is more than double than what we had last year in our bank accounts. If current trends continue, the county more than likely may not do a Tax Anticipation Note, which we had to do in recent years. Yes, the county had more than expected expenditures at the Jail and CYS, but those factors were out of our hands.
“The county’s financial situation is healthier than what our opponents are saying. The county has no debt and pays all the bills in a timely manner.
“So therefore, I would continue to be fiscally conservative in our financial decisions.”
Kovalick: “After reviewing the past three years of financial statements, I do not see the county to be in great financial shape, however we aren’t going broke. After listening to other commissioner candidates discuss the budget situation in their own ways, I choose to show you, the public, what Clearfield County’s audits look like for the last the three. The county has faced its highest expenditure increases in miscellaneous, human services, public safety and general government judicial.
“County financial records indicate to me that we are seeing a higher expenditure in areas that are addressing direct needs of our drug/opioid epidemic.
“My plan on how to manage the budget include working with the county Controller, Row Officers and department heads to monitor projected budgets. Where we find areas to reduce expenditures, we will. More importantly, I will look for means to increase our revenue without adversity on your taxes.
“As I have mentioned before, it is time to think and act strategically in Clearfield County. Therefore, when the budget allows without forming hardship on others, I will request and vote for the development of a smart and strategic plan of the county. Then based on practicable findings begin addressing recommendations identified.
“With my experience and relationships formed with private, state, federal entities, we must not rule out that our local county municipalities deserve attention, backing and support to grow and develop, creating revenue for there communities, and moving Clearfield County forward.