West Chester: Meet Your Candidates

With elections less than a week away, it is time we take a look at who exactly wants to run this town.

With general elections right around the corner, I am republishing this for your voter knowledge. Originally run in April it has been updated to include all the general election candidates and their viewpoints on local (and in some case national) issues. As witnessed by last week’s school board meeting, a lot of national agendas seem to be pushing their way into local discussions so please take a few minutes to review the candidates for yourself and their priorities for yourself.

I know the wounds of last November’s election are still fresh, but this is another important cycle if you live in the Borough. While state and national races are quiet, we have a packed local ticket: mayor, four borough council seats and our representative on the West Chester Area School Board

Hey, did I just see you yawn? 

I guess, you’re a big election voter. No president, no senator, not even a congressman or woman to argue with your neighbor over, then really what’s the point? Well, while these positions don’t often have big names, they have a lot of influence and that influence hits awfully close to home. 

Borough Council holds a lot of power in West Chester’s borough style of government. According to a very helpful breakdown of County positions and roles pulled together by the non-affiliated group Chester County Marching Forward, Borough Council’s role is to:

“Make decisions on local police hiring, taxing, permits, zoning and building codes, local parks, open spaces and trails, pipelines, roads and bridges, trash and public works, and public safety.”

Mayor, in my opinion, is less directly consequential. In official capacity, again back to Chester County Marching Forward,

“A mayor serves as the civilian oversight of the City or Borough Police Department works with Police Chief to hire police and establish police guidelines. Can declare a state of emergency.” In the case of West Chester, where we operate under our Home Rule Charter rather than the state set “Borough Code” (oh the things you learn) the mayor also has the opportunity to weigh in on ordinances (approve or veto) and can serve as the tie-breaker vote in the case of a deadlocked Borough Council.

In addition, the post can hold a lot of in the way of visibility and influence. The mayor is the figurehead of the Borough and he or she has a ready platform to champion causes near and dear to them. Mayor Diane Herrin for example started the Opioid Task Force and was influential in getting Gay Street closed during the height of the pandemic. 

Finally the members of the School Board have an immense ability to disrupt your life – whether you have kids in school or not. Don’t believe let’s just see what Chester County Marching Forward has to say:

School Board members make decisions about important issues for parents, such as:

  • In-person vs. online classes during the pandemic (Saw this one up close and person this year.)
  • School safety, gun violence and suicide prevention policies and programs
  • Prioritizing budget spending (Another guidance counselor or another security guard? New band uniforms or upgraded playing field?)
  • Curriculum, homework and standardized testing policies
  • Special Education programs and practices
  • Equity policies: Free lunch, full day kindergarten, after school help?
  • Negotiations with the Teacher’s Union (pay, training, teacher safety)
  • Which schools your neighborhood attends

The School Board also influences taxes. “While the state determines the increase in property taxes each district can levy, the school board can choose to not implement tax increases.” Which means this race has consequences whether you have kids or not.

See, important. Now to get you jazzed for November 2 and keep your from having to do eeny-meeny-miny-moe when you get to the ballot box I have pulled some background information on each of the races.

Mayor

West Chester residents have to the chance to vote in several key elections among them, mayor and school board representative.

West Chester has three candidates vying for mayor this election: Lillian DeBaptiste, Eric Lorgus and Beth Ann Rosica. The victor will replace current interim mayor Jordan Norley, who was appointed by Borough Council to replace Dianne Herrin after she was elected to the State House this time last year.

Last week the Chester County League of Women’s Voters held a candidate forum at Borough Hall. Candidates discussed how to improve communication, environmental justice, the future of rail and the Police Department’s new Diversity Task Force. Here is the Daily Local write up of that forum and below is a side-by-side candidate comparison. Information in the chart was pulled from the candidate’s website or provided as an answer during a debate.

*Does not including party endorsements. Assume each party endorses their own candidate. **Responses requested but not yet received.

Borough Council Races

Get ready for some new faces. This year Borough Council has four seats on the ballot. These include in Ward 1, 3, and 5 where two-term Councilmen Bill Scott, Michael Galey, and Don Braceland will all be retiring their seats. In ward 7, Councilwoman Lisa Dorsey will be rerunning for her seat after first being appointed then running in a special election last fall. All four candidates are currently running unopposed. So, here’s hoping you like what you hear.

Ward 1: Patrick McCoy

Patrick McCoy will be running in Ward 1 to replace the once censured but never quieted Bill Scott. Mr. McCoy is Professional Civil and Architectural Engineer by training (and talented amateur photographer). He now serves as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Spotts, Stevens and McCoy. 

In a recent email Patrick described his vision for West Chester and why he decided to run.

“A sustainable West Chester is important to me, and its continued health, environment and economy is vital to the Borough’s appeal to all of us. If the last year taught us anything, it’s that change, sometimes unexpected is inevitable; adapting sensibly will always keep this a place residents and visitors want to be.”

“My life has been heavily influenced by a call to serve communities,” he continued. “I am running for Council to continue the great work done on many levels regionally and locally to help implement environmental priorities while modernizing infrastructure. One of my top priorities would be for enhancing safety and accessibility of our streets to be more pedestrian and cycling friendly.”

Mr. McCoy has been very active in the community previously serving the Borough government as well as on the boards of several popular local organizations.  

Has his support:

  • WCACOG goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050
  • West Chester rail line
  • Community solar
  • EV infrastructure

West Chester cred:

  • Vice Chair of the Board, Barclay Friends
  • Member of the Board, Redevelopment Authority, Borough of West Chester
  • Board member, West Chester Film Festival

Ward 3: Brian McGinnis

Once head of the Chester County Democrats and Political Director of the Future Leaders Fund, experienced political operative Brian McGinnis will be seeking a seat on Borough Council representing Ward 3. Ward 3 is currently represented by Board President Michael Galey. While well versed in local politics, this is his first time running in a full election cycle himself (he did put his name the for Caroyn Commita’s state house seat after she was elected to the Senate. The position ultimately filled by Dianne Herrin). 

“I have seen the tremendous growth that has turned this town into one of the best places to live, work, and raise a family. I have also seen the severe impact that the pandemic has had on our local community and small businesses. That is why I decided to run for West Chester Borough Council.”

West Chester cred:

  • WCU graduate
  • Chairman of the Chester County Democratic Committee 2014-2018

Has his support:

  • Keeping taxes low and investing in long-term economic growth
  • WCACOG goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050
  • All electric WC fleet
  • Return to rail 
  • Increased minority representation on the police force
  • Smart growth measures to reduce traffic and hold contractors accountable for responsible construction

Ward 5

Sheila Vaccaro will be running in Ward 5. Sheila is a product designer who seeks incremental change through solutions that appeal to everyone. In a recent email Sheila described herself and her desire to run:

“I moved to West Chester Borough as an infant and love being a part of the close community we have.  Local politics have always been important.  It is time to focus on the details.  Every person in our community matters.  As we move past the COVID-19 shutdown, West Chester needs to emerge stronger than ever.  We can and we will,  together.” 

West Chester cred: 

  • Hillsdale homeroom parent
  • West Chester University library volunteer

Has her support:

  • Practical, provable environmental changes not the abolishment of fossil fuels
  • More bike and scooter rentals
  • Making the Gay Street closure permanent

Ward 7

Lisa Dorsey is seeking the same seat for the third time in just 18 months. Ms. Dorsey was originally named to fill the seat after Councilwoman Denise Polk vacated over a dispute over whether or not to close Gay Street. She then ran for the seat outright in November and is back at it again this year as part of regularly scheduled election programming. 

West Chester cred:

  • Former president of the Board of the Melton Center

Has her support:

  • WCACOG goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050
  • Return to rail
  • Establishing an electric bus route to the Exton station 
  • She has also been a firm advocate of improving diversity of the police force

School Board

What next year’s school will look like will depend a lot on what the school board has to say.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the upcoming West Chester Area School Board elections. The school board has several members up for election this year, including Region One representing the Borough of West Chester.

Two term West Chester representative Joyce Chester is up for re-election. She is running against Ada Nestor. The race for school board has gotten quite contentious in recent months as outside political action committee money has flowed into local school board races across the country including those in West Chester. The partisan rhetoric has grown so polarizing and unproductive, that current board members decided they needed to speak up. Last week they penned a letter to the editor. You can read it here.

Chester County Marching Forward is working on candidate sheets for all those running for school board. So far they have completed a bio on Joyce and several other candidates. You can follow the full list here: candidates for running for school board.

Joyce Chester – Key issues

  • Joyce is very much taking a cautious approach to COVID-19. In February, she voted against the return to school for all students. You can read her stated reason for that decision here.
  • She is a proponent of maintaining COVID safety guidelines including masking and distancing until a time when they are not deemed necessary by the CDC and Chester County Department of Health.
  • Supports fiscal responsibility
  • Prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Supports investments in technology

Joyce is President and CEO of Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), Inc., a local non-profit entity that provides adult literacy and employment training to disadvantaged Chester County residents and a mother of two WCASD graduates. She has served on the West Chester Area School Board since 2013. As a board member she supported full-day kindergarten, championed WCASD’s 2020 Equity Audit and kept tax increases below average. You can find more about Joyce here.

Ada Nestor – Key issues

  • Provide parents with both a five-day in person school option as well as five-day cyber option.
  • Proponent of removing mask requirements and returning to a traditional full-day.
  • Supports fiscal responsibility. Wants to reduce the $8 million dollar overage we saw over the last two years to do this she supports reviewing all contract, administrative salaries and budgets for savings.
  • In her bio sheet among key issues, Ada also weighs in on a couple of national debates including:
    • not allowing trans students to participate in women’s sports. She has expanded on this stance in a recent blog post to her campaign site stating: “Transgender children should have all the same rights as biological boys and girls in school.  My only concern is when it comes to athletic scholarships. Currently, young women athletes only receive 30% of all scholarship money. My opinion is that young women should not have to compete with biological men for scholarship money.  It is that simple.”
    • believes the 1619 Project is “fictionalized” curriculum and calls for its exclusion.*

Ada’s decided to run for school board in response to last year’s school closures. She is a mother with two kids in the district and supports putting onerous on parents to make decisions related to their children. You can see her full profile here.

*Note: these stances are responses to national discussions. For the specifics on what is being taught as part of the West Chester Area School District’s equity curriculum you can find that here.

From raising taxes to closing Gay Street to deciding whether or not our schools will be in person or not, these positions hold a lot of sway on your day to night life and as a friend recently pointed out, you really can’t rely on party affiliation, you need to actually research the candidates.

Not sure what Ward you are in? You can find that here.

Want more on county elections? Our new friends (can you tell?) at Chester County Marching Forward have a wealth of background materials.

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