NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Six candidates are vying for three open, four year seats on the Newtown Borough Council.
In the first ward, Incumbent Democrat Tara Grunde-McLaughlin is facing a challenge from Republican Thomas Dillione.
In the second ward, incumbent Republican Kevin McDermott and Republican Charles Adcock are facing Democrats Susan Turner and Robert Swajkos for two open seats.
The Advance of Bucks County asked each of the candidates to respond to a question - in their own words - about why they are running and the biggest challenge facing the community. Here are their responses:
First Ward (Pick One)
Tara Grunde-McLaughlin (D)
I have lived in the Borough of Newtown since 1999, and it is very important to me to support and improve with careful stewardship the Borough and community I love. My husband Ed and I are raising our four children here, and all have gone to or are presently attending Council Rock schools. I see this position as way to serve our community by helping to improve areas that would benefit from betterment and to maintain what we cherish about our unique and welcoming town.
One of the elements that makes Newtown special is its historic charm, and it is important to me to help safeguard that. At present we are facing proposed property developments, and I will work with our engineer and solicitor to ensure that proper rules and procedures are followed and that input from the Planning Commission and HARB is heard. While recognizing property owners’ rights, it is also particularly important that changes support the overall community and are in its benefit.
After graduating from Colgate University and then earning an M.S.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, I worked with adolescents in residential treatment. Over the last nearly six years, I have had the honor of serving on Newtown Borough Council, and am now Vice President. This position has helped me understand the issues the Borough faces and the ongoing work required. Prior to being on Borough Council, my experiences on the Newtown Recreation Board, as a volunteer at Goodnoe Elementary, and as a Girl Scout leader have allowed me to participate in growing community connections and spirit.
Thomas Dillione (R)
Newtown Borough is the place that I have called home and raised my family for the past 30 years. It truly is a wonderful place to live, work and worship. Regardless of party affiliation, everyone has the same goal of keeping the Borough a special place. I am running to give back to the community that has given so much to me. My desires are to keep out citizens safe so I support our Independent Police Force. We need prudent fiscal management and responsible growth so the Borough can continue to evolve but not burden our citizens with taxes. Finding a parking solution is critical to our State Street businesses as well as the nearby residents. We also must insure that our speed limits are obeyed. We want children to be able to play safely near their homes. Lastly, when it comes to our budget, we need to remain focused on priorities like infrastructure & our roads.
My wife Mary Beth and I have been Borough residents for over 30 years. We raised three daughters who all went through the Council Rock School District. Currently I serve as Chairman of the Newtown Borough Zoning Board where I have been a member for over 10 years. Professionally , I work as a Vice President/National Sales Manager for a Wine & Spirit Import Company.
Second Ward (Pick Two)
Robert Swajkos (D)
I was requested by my Newtown Borough neighbors to be a candidate for Council. With a professional career of problem solving as an international business bankruptcy attorney, as Chair of Bucks County Credit Counseling Center, and having served as Administrator of the US Bankruptcy Court (Philadelphia), I hope to bring leadership and management skills to Council which operates without a professional town manager. Preserving Newtown's historic nature with known and consistent principles and regulations while meeting the needs of the community is the key issue. Merging community involvement with intelligent governance will continue and enhance Newtown's unique sense of neighborhood.
My legal career spans nearly 50 years having served as a judicial law clerk (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas), staff counsel for Penn Central Railroad responsible for all intermodal (rail, truck and container) operations, senior counsel for Penn Central Railroad Trustees responsible for all claim reconciliation, reorganization plan voting and claim payment, Bankruptcy Court Administrator, bankruptcy trustee, outside legal counsel for major American corporations, counsel to numerous regional non-profit organizations, and advisor to Penn State Law School and the Supreme Court of Poland. I have been a Newtown Borough resident for 18 years. And I’m a graduate of Penn State University and Villanova Law School.
Susan Turner (D)
Retaining the historic charm of Newtown, while supporting existing and future businesses, is Newtown’s biggest challenge. I want to join neighbors and Council in developing a detailed plan for Newtown’s future and ensuring it is achieved. There are many opportunities in Newtown for public improvements. Many Borough streets have no sidewalks and insufficient lighting. This poses safety concerns for all, especially for the many seniors who live here. Creation of bike lanes would improve safety for our bike-riding children and encourage adults to get out of their cars and ride their own bikes. Traffic congestion could be eased by the addition of left turn lights at many intersections. We need a beautification program to spruce up downtown and help businesses make needed improvements. These projects can be costly, but there are Federal and State grants available annually that could significantly reduce the Borough’s financial burden, allowing Newtown to make needed improvements without having to float a bond or increase taxes. Council needs to make it a priority to have a “wish list” of projects ready so that the Borough can apply for these grants as they are announced.
I am a Mechanical Engineer with nearly 40 years of experience in the specialty chemicals industry and a proven track record of using consensus building and teamwork to achieve objectives. I have successfully managed large and small teams and have extensive experience in contract negotiation and management, working with others to find the best solutions to complex problems while maximizing efficiency and controlling costs. I recently retired and have started a small bakery business out of my home.
Kevin McDermott (R)
I am running for re-election to Newtown Borough Council to continue the progress made in the Borough such as: Transferred our ordinances from a paper based to a digital based platform transparent to everyone; Established an outside consultant to review all ordinances to update, streamline and consistency check all of them; Enhanced the historical nature of our town with the acquisition of the Bird In Hand property and development of Newtown Commons; and Demonstrated solid financial management while keeping taxes stable. Pensions for our employees receive the highest rating. Our Council currently operates in a consensus driven, non-partisan fashion where we concentrate on local issues, not divisive partisan activities so prevalent in other levels of government. We get things done! I believe my leadership qualities as council president facilitate this team work environment. For the betterment of Newtown Borough I would like to see this continue. The most important issue facing the Borough is striking the right balance between promoting business growth while maintaining our unique charm as an important historical, walkable town.
I am retired with 35 years of international management experience. I am a graduate of Villanova University with a B.A. in English. I have been married for 36 years to my wife Sharon. We have four children and one granddaughter. We love this town and I love being a part of our Council.
Charlie Adcock (R)
I am running for Borough council because I love Newtown. As a kid, I loved knowing that our Pizza Hut was the only one that did not have a red roof! I believe the principle of that is important. The history and architecture of Newtown has drawn people for centuries. But the small town feel and sense of community is what makes people want to call Newtown home.
Newtown’s historic charm, with wonderful old buildings and somewhat smaller streets leads to a bit of a parking problem at times. We have a few things on the horizon that if handled properly should allow us to address those issues while not changing the look or feel of the Boro. The position of the council should be to solve problems as efficiently as possible.
Our local government should run fiscally responsible while allowing residents and local business to happily thrive. There must always remain balance in our decisions. Our goal should be to Remember and honor the history and conservative values that made Newtown the place we love to live, worship, shop and dine.
I grew up around hard work. I’m a third generation auctioneer and have spent my life around successful people who have understood how to balance family, work, faith, friends and costumer service. I have operated an auction company since 1996. I have received accolades such as world champion auctioneer and an ongoing commitment award from the Philadelphia chapter of MDA. I have coached several years of baseball, basketball and football in our community. My wife Jen and I, our kids Braden, Addy and Cooper love Newtown and want to continue to a part of its future.