Butterbaugh fends off late ‘sabotage’ to keep council seat

Kelley, Cacciotti, Jordan also win spots in election

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Councilman Dave Butterbaugh (right) talks with Don Corl of Hollidaysburg on election night at the Bavarian Hall.

Incumbent Dave Butterbaugh was pessimistic about his chances of winning re-election to City Council on Tuesday, which would require that he finish among the top four of five candidates on the ballot.

He’d been excoriated in a widely publicized news conference held by city firefighters Friday for having expressed suspicions several years ago that firefighters were setting vacant buildings ablaze, possibly to counter the fears that the financially distressed city would be better off with a volunteer or hybrid department.

Butterbaugh defended himself by saying the criticism “reek(ed) of political sabotage,” because one of his election opponents is the wife of a city firefighter. He said that he’d never shared the suspicions in public and that the suspicions had come originally from a city firefighter.

But after the polls closed Tuesday, it looked like the news conference had done damage after Butterbaugh, a Republican, checked results posted at a couple of precincts where he’d expected to do well.

He’d prevailed at those places but barely.

“I thought it was going to be a tough night,” he said.

It wasn’t until all the city results were in late Tuesday evening that he finally accepted that he’d eked out fourth place in front of Democrat Natalie Barlick-Reed, the wife of Fire Department Capt. Jim Reed, by 403 votes.

“I walked in the door (at the Bavarian Hall, where the Republicans gathered Tuesday) with the attitude I was going to be the most gracious loser I could be,” Butterbaugh said.

It wasn’t until he was approached by former Sheriff Mitch Cooper, who shook his hand and congratulated him, that there was no need.

Barlick-Reed, who was at Nardo’s restaurant after the polls closed with her husband and other supporters, was positive early on, based on messages, texts and well-wishes she’d received during the day, she said.

Afterward, when the votes were counted, she said the results proved “we gave it our best shot.”

She ran on the theme of “truth and integrity” and continues to stand by those values, she said.

She plans to run for council again.

“You have not seen the last of me,” she said.

The news conference had “absolutely” not been called to help her win, she said.

“It’s an unrelated subject,” her husband said.

Former Councilman Bruce Kelley, who’d lost in the mayoral race in the last election, got the most votes among council candidates Tuesday, followed by incumbents Matt Cacciotti and Christie Jordan.

“I’m really tickled by the results,” Kelley said. “Humbled and thankful.”

He reiterated his intention to work for growing the tax base, reversing brain drain and fighting the opioid crisis.

Cacciotti said he’s learned a lot in his four years on council, especially the surprising amount of money and the “massive” amount of (worker) energy it takes to run the city.

Jordan, originally an appointee, was pleased to have won in the general election, after having survived the primary.

“I appreciated being appointed,” she said. But being elected means being affirmed by the people, she said.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” she said. “(Although) I’m glad I’m finally at the end of the road.”