By Russ O'Reilly
HOLLIDAYSBURG - Two distinct campaign platforms defined the 2011 school board election in Hollidaysburg: "taxpayer friendly" and "fiscally responsible."
Since taking its seats on the board in December, the board's "taxpayer friendly" majority garnered a 6-3 vote to pass a budget with no tax increase for this school year. It is set tonight to fill a vacant position left by board member Bill Padamonsky's August resignation, possibly by choosing their campaign rival Ronald Sommer.
The appointed candidate will serve an unexpired term until December 2013.
Gaining 2,195 votes in the 2011 election, Sommer, who was part of the fiscally responsible camp, had the most votes behind election winners Robert Vonada - Sommer's campaign partner- and their rivals who ran on a campaign of taxpayer friendliness: board President Ron Yoder, Vice President Darlee Sill, Aaron Ritchey and Troy Keefer.
Vonada said he supports appointing Sommer and expects the board's campaign divisions to dissipate as they appoint a member to replace Padamonsky, who was among the minority with Vonada and Wally Tomassetti to vote for a tax increase this year.
"The will of the voters has to be respected above the perceived ideology of voters. If [the board] says 'our team won, so someone consistent with our team should be appointed,' that is a presumption [of voters' desires]," Vonada said.
"People voted for five candidates. And for 2,195 people, Sommer was one of their five candidates," Vonada said.
The teams of the 2011 election are "ancient history," Yoder said.
But there may be five sound reasons in not appointing Sommer: Five other applicants, including a past board member, have sent letters of interest.
"To say Sommer is a shoe-in, I wouldn't say that," Yoder said. "There are several qualified applicants. We are evaluating applicants based on their merits and their abilities," Yoder said.
Vonada said the polls of the 2011 election should govern the board's decision.
"It's hard for the board to evaluate any other candidate in the same way the electorate evaluated Sommer," he said.
But the board, not the district's electorate, appoints a temporary replacement member to fill a vacancy, according to the School Code, district solicitor Dave Andrews said.
"I would surmise the intent of the law was that people who served on the board, with experience on the board, would know the qualifications a candidate should have to best serve the board at that point in time," Andrews said.
Sommer said he hopes his election experience will help his chances of serving in that temporary capacity.
"Being a top vote-getter in the last election, I think I should get more consideration for the vacant position." Sommer said. "But I'm not sure if they will select me or someone else with more experience."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.