By JOHN HARLOW
Daily Herald Editor
Former Mid State Bank executive and current Blair County Assistant Treasurer Barry Wright announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Blair County Commissioner yesterday at the Altoona School District board room.
Wright, who is currently the president of the Altoona Area School Board of Directors, plans to use his experience of dealing with people to be an effective commissioner.
“I look at my experience, 39 years in banking, 10 years on the Altoona School Board and my good relationships with federal, state and local legislators. This will all help me be an effective commissioner,” Wright told The Daily Herald yesterday. “I believe that the work we have done at the Altoona School District, whose budget is $30 million more than the county, will help keep taxes in line for the county residents.”
The Altoona School District employs 1,600 people and has a $72 million budget and has not had a tax increase in the last 17 years.
“Growth in the county is what I want to promote,” said Wright. “We need to get businesses in the northern and southern ends of the county. Tyrone, Bellwood, Claysburg and the Cove areas are perfect locations for light industry and distribution centers. Tyrone and Bellwood have great residential areas and with Interstate 99 on the horizon, we will have the highway system to become a fantastic location for distribution.”
Wright plans to become a full-time commissioner if elected.
“Two of our three commissioners make $53,000 per year doing a part time job and by 2007 would be making $61,000 a year,” said Wright. “One commissioner (John Eichelberger) has his own insurance business and the other commissioner (John Ebersole) has a lot of other outside activities.
“I plan to be in the office from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and be visible and accessable,” said Wright. “I am not only going to be visible to the voters of Blair County but also to the great employees who make this county successful.
“I think it is a travesty that in 2007, a Blair County commissioner will make $61,000 for what is basically a part-time job when the average full-time working salary in Blair County is in the neighborhood of $30,000,” said Wright. “I plan to push for a freeze on the commissioners’ salary. If I am over-ruled, I would give the pay raise back to the county or to a charity of my choice.”
Wright currently makes $17,000 as the deputy treasurer of Blair County.
“I believe that we need to be out getting the monies that are available,” said Wright. “There are many grants that are available, and current Commissioner Donna Gorrity has worked hard and successfully to obtain them. The county recently received grants for children and youth. We need to be actively chasing grant monies to help our residents.”
Wright says he will do everything possible to ease property taxes in the county.
“I don’t want to even look into raising real estate taxes,” said Wright. “The real estate tax is a life preserver. The county could look into a sales tax or earned income tax, but I plan to stay away from real estate taxes.”
After ending his 39-year career at Mid State Bank, Wright was approached by current Blair County Treasurer Fred Korman about joining him in the Treasurer’s office.
“Fred is one of the greatest men in the world to work for,” said Wright. “He needed a deputy treasurer and I was very happy to serve. He actually asked me to run for treasurer because he is retiring this year, but the treasurer position isn’t a decision making position. There are plenty of responsibilities in the treasurer’s job such as making sure the county’s bills are paid, balancing all checking accounts, issue all dog, fishing and hunting liscenses. It is an important job, but not a decision making job.”
Debbie Shuster King earlier announced her candidacy for the county treasurer position.
Wright plans to be very active in his campaign.
“I feel that I am very well known in Altoona and Logan Township, but I need to get my ideas to the people in the northern and southern ends of the county,” said Wright. “I will be out knocking on doors in Tyrone and Bellwood, Martinsburg and Claysburg. I have been lucky to meet a lot of upstanding citizens in the Tyrone area and look forward to working with them, getting to meet the people of the northern end of Blair County.
“I plan to speak to anyone who will listen,” said Wright. “If that means speaking to coffee clubs, people meeting for breakfast. If they are willing to hear my message, I will share it with them.”
Wright has also served as past president of the Altoona Chapter of the American Institute of Banking, served with the Blair County United Way, a past member of the Rotary Club, a past president of the Lions Club, past president of Day Care Services of Blair County and past president of Blair County Easter Seals.
By JOHN HARLOW