Altoona mayoral candidates newcomers to politics

Two political newcomers – and Altoona natives – are vying for the city mayor’s chair in Tuesday’s election: Republican Matt Pacifico and Democrat John Pentland.

Pacifico is operations manager at his family’s well-known city bakery, and Pentland is a retired state corrections officer.

“Act 47 got me into politics,” said Pentland.

An independent who registered as a Democrat because it signaled his pro-labor leanings, Pentland wants to ensure that the city doesn’t use the Act 47 recovery plan to “destroy working people and unions.”

Concessions may need to be made, he said. “I just want to make sure it’s fair.”

As mayor, he would try to sell the city to business, to encourage investment and to show that there’s “more right with Altoona than wrong.”

He also would try to sell it to the people – especially the young people – who over the years have migrated from the city to surrounding townships.

“Not people from out of the county,” he said. “But people who wandered into the county.”

Pacifico would emphasize revitalizing downtown.

“My idea is to build it up similar to how College Avenue is in State College,” he said.

He thinks adding housing for students and young professionals – especially for UPMC Altoona – is the key.

“Once that happens, we could then attract the restaurants and retail,” he said.

He would also like to make sure it’s no harder to open a business in the city “than it has to be.”

And he’d like to promote railroad tourism.

People drive hours to come to railroad events like the recent “All Aboard Altoona,” he said.

Pentland is a 1975 graduate of Altoona Area High School. He’s served in the Navy, lived in Florida for stints in the 1970s and 1980s, sold real estate and insurance, served as a constable in Altoona and now owns Molly Maguire’s pub in town.

He and his wife own Claudia’s Barking Lot.

Pacifico is a 1999 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle High School. His wife owns Family Pizza.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.