City’s next leader eager

Trying to become mayor of Altoona proved harder than making bread and more stressful than getting married, according to professional baker and Republican candidate Matt Pacifico Tuesday. And when he learned he’d succeeded Tuesday, it was more than he could do to keep from crying.

No sobbing, just a struggle to control his features, a hand to the eyes and a temporary inability to articulate.

“I’m extremely happy,” he said, after composing himself at the county Republicans’ election-night get-together at Cesare Battisti. “Also speechless.”

Political newcomer Pacifico defeated fellow newcomer John Pentland, a Democrat, 58 percent to 41 percent, after a quiet campaign, with candidates stepping up their efforts toward the end.

Pacifico received 2,727 voters to Pentland’s 1,931.

Across town a little later, Pentland sat at the bar in his crowded and noisy tavern on the Pleasant Valley side of Dutch Hill.

“I did what I could do,” he said. “I studied everything, and I went everywhere.”

Among the places he went were City Council and Government Study Commission meetings.

Among the documents he studied was the Act 47 recovery plan.

He ran because he fears the Act 47 effort will destroy the city unions and he felt “compelled to help,” he said.

He wouldn’t have campaigned differently if he had it to do again, he said.

Still, while independent, he’d run as a Democrat in an area that traditionally votes Republican.

Was that why he lost? a reporter asked.

Pentland leaned back in his bar chair and gave the reporter – who was standing behind him and to the side – a long look.

“Don’t you?” he asked rhetorically.

What’s next for him?

“I’d kinda like to go fishing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pacifico was excited about taking on his prospective responsibilities – and looking innocuous in his blue cardigan, bow tie and black-frame glasses.

He’d been “super-nervous” Tuesday morning, he said.

But the people he encountered as he worked the polling places were “very welcoming,” and it set him at ease.

He was in a thankful mood at the get-together, expressing gratitude about the dozen volunteers who maintained a presence for him at key election sites all day and for Blair County Republican Committee Chairman A.C. Stickel, who helped him gather those volunteers and organize and run his campaign.

He had had no idea how to do those things himself, he said.

“He was at my disposal,” Pacifico said of Stickel. “I could call him any time, day or night.”

And he did just that, Pacifico added.

He decided to run after the city entered the Act 47 distress program late last year, and people said “nobody will want to be the mayor.”

Current Mayor Bill Schirf chose not to run for re-election.

Pacifico saw that as a challenge.

He wants to help get the city out of distress.

He also wants to show by example that young people can serve the city.

“You don’t have to be retired,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.