Teen turned councilman-elect

GALLITZIN – Borough Council will soon have a teenager seated at its table.

This month’s election of 19-year-old Austin Osmolinski makes him the youngest person in Gallitzin to ever hold local government office, officials said.

“I think me being mayor may have influenced him a little bit,” said his grandfather, Borough Mayor Ray Osmolinski, laughing. “But he decided to get involved and try to make things a little bit better. You see problems, and you want to try and correct them.”

The 2012 Penn Cambria High School graduate attends Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Ebensburg for criminal justice and hopes to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer by enrolling in an academy within the next two years.

So, while he likely won’t serve a full four-year term, Austin said he decided to run because he wanted to spur change.

“I just feel that a lot of people are complaining about things that are going on in the town, and I just feel like I should go out and do my part to make a difference,” he said.

Having wanted to be a state trooper from a young age, Austin said public safety and crime reduction in the borough are two of his main focuses.

Austin’s father, also named Ray Osmolinski, previously worked as a drug analyst for the now-defunct National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown and, according to Austin, his dad’s work was an inspiration to join the police force.

“He’s grown up around FBI agents, cops, DEA agents,” his father said, and never wavered from wanting to pursue a law-enforcement career. “He’s always been very focused on what he wants, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.”

Austin’s father said he encouraged his son to run for political office, something he could never do as a federal employee.

But the Osmolinski family is no stranger to local politics. Before becoming mayor, the elder Ray Osmolinski served for 10 years on the borough’s sewer and disposal authority board. And Austin’s father has since been appointed to the board.

While some may think too many people from one family are involved, Austin’s father said family ties won’t keep his son from speaking his mind.

“He already told his pap, ‘Don’t get mad at me, but I’m probably not going to agree with everything you say. I’m … not going to be your yes man,'” he said.

Council President Roger Renninger said borough officials have had nothing but positive dealings with the mayor and the Osmolinski family in general, and the fact that Austin wants to get involved now, rather than later, is a good sign. They don’t fear nepotism, he said.

“I think it’s a great thing for the town. We need to get our younger generations involved in how things work within the borough and bring their ideas in,” Renninger said. “I’m just thankful to have fresh blood on council, and I appreciate the fact that he even stepped up and offered to do this. Nobody else in the borough offered to do that.”

Renninger said whether Austin can be there for six months or 10 years, council welcomes his contributions.

In fact, Austin seems to be getting a head start, having worked earlier this month with Police Chief Gerald Hagen to set up the police department’s Facebook page, with help from the Altoona Police Department.

Seeing APD’s ever-growing success, Gallitzin officials had been considering making their own page for some time, Renninger said, but lacked the man hours to do so.

“Austin stepped in, and he set the page up,” he said, and in only two weeks, the page’s almost 2,200 “likes” have exceeded the borough’s population.

Renninger said Austin is expressive, thoughtful and more mature than most teenagers, and he is looking forward to seeing him at meetings.

Austin said he’s looking forward to it, too.

“I’m really excited. I want to jump in and change what I can change and see how I can benefit the people,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.