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Middletown Borough Council picks new member to replace Woodworth, who resigned

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/16/19

Middletown Borough Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to appoint Richard Kluskiewicz to fill the seat created by the recent resignation of former council Vice President Michael Woodworth.

Kluskiewicz is …

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Middletown Borough Council picks new member to replace Woodworth, who resigned

Richard Kluskiewicz, right, takes the oath of office from Mayor James H. Curry III as Middletown Council President Angela Lloyd observes, after council voted 4-2 to appoint Kluskiewicz to the council seat vacated by Michael Woodworth on Oct. 15.
Richard Kluskiewicz, right, takes the oath of office from Mayor James H. Curry III as Middletown Council President Angela Lloyd observes, after council voted 4-2 to appoint Kluskiewicz to the council seat vacated by Michael Woodworth on Oct. 15.
staff photo by dan miller
Posted

Middletown Borough Council voted 4-2 on Oct. 15 to appoint Richard Kluskiewicz to fill the seat created by the recent resignation of former council Vice President Michael Woodworth.

Kluskiewicz is one of four borough residents who applied to fill the seat, the others being Phyllis Dew, James Hoffman and Lorraine Rose.

Hoffman did not show up for the public interviews that council held with all the candidates before making a decision.

Kluskiewicz and Dew are both on the November ballot running for a four-year term on council.

Kluskiewicz, a Republican, received more votes in the May primary than any other candidate for council on the ballot of either party.

He said during his interview by council members that he was born and raised in Middletown and still lives in the same house he was raised in in the first block of East Roosevelt Avenue. He recently retired from after working for 40 years at Three Mile Island.

Kluskiewicz said the town’s biggest asset is its people, “if you can get them motivated. That’s the biggest issue — motivating the people in this town to do something.”

Asked why he thinks he is the right person to be on council, Kluskiewicz responded “because I care about this town. I care about the people that live here, I care about the people that work here. Being a volunteer in this town, I cared about people. Nobody paid me to do what I was doing. I did it because I cared about everybody.”

For Councilor Ian Reddinger, the fact Kluskiewicz received the most votes in the primary made the task of deciding who among the three to choose “real simple.”

“He is pretty much a shoo-in to get elected,” Reddinger said. “It’s not what I thought was best, but what the people thought was best. It was what the residents of Middletown wanted, and they spoke at the ballot box.”

Reddinger said he liked Dew “a lot.” However, while Dew, a Democrat, is on the ballot, she received just 143 votes in the May primary, compared to the 317 cast for Kluskiewicz.

Council Ellen Willenbecher agreed.

“In a way it’s not my vote,” she said. “The residents already spoke in May.”

With two applicants being on the ballot who are at least in a position to be elected in November, Reddinger felt it made little sense to pick Rose to fill the vacant seat and hold it just until the end of this year.

Council Vice President Dawn Knull took the opposite viewpoint, telling the Press & Journal in a text message she did not vote for Kluskiewicz “because I personally felt that we should not vote in a candidate that was on the ballot to give anyone an advantage or disadvantage in the upcoming election. I feel that I could have and will work with anyone that came onto council.”

Councilor Robert Reid also voted against appointing Kluskiewicz, but could not be reached for further comment.

Councilor Jenny Miller acknowledged that Kluskiewicz has a good chance of being elected in November, based on the numbers.

“I saw an advantage to having potentially one of the next counselors to be elected to come on early. He will have gained some knowledge between now and the first of the year, if he wins,” Miller said.

But Miller added she did not vote for Kluskiewicz “to endorse him. I just liked what he had to say.”

She pointed to Kluskiewicz’s 30 years with the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department.

“He will be an asset to the council,” Miller said. “He spent a lot of time, a lot of years in volunteer service to Middletown. He just came across to me to have a real desire to just help make the town better, not that the rest of them didn’t. I liked his answers.”

All three candidates were asked the same list of questions in separate public interviews by the council.

Candidates were sequestered in a side room until their time to be interviewed, so as not to hear the answers from the other applicants before it was their turn.

After all three candidates were interviewed, council went into a closed-door executive session to deliberate, before re-emerging to vote in public. Other than to cast their vote, councilors made no comment on their decision in public during the meeting.

Dew during her interview talked of her 40-plus years of experience as a social worker. For many of those years she ran her own agency working with foster and adoptive children.

She said the biggest issue facing the town is drugs and alcohol, and all the problems that result from substance abuse.

“That leads to children with no parents because the parents are incarcerated, which leads to grandparents having to raise the children, then you have traumatized children that are being taught in school and often by traumatized teachers,” Dew said. “We don’t have the resources in place yet to treat these things. Going to jail does not help somebody become drug-free. We need more facilities to help people become drug-free.”

Rose has a background in education and law enforcement. She worked as a corrections officer in Long Island, New York, where she grew up, before moving to Pennsylvania. She now works at a half-way house for the state Department of Corrections, helping female offenders re-enter society.

Rose on multiple occasions said that council and the borough needs to do more to involve the community.

“What we are doing right now is preaching to the choir. The same people are coming, but no change,” Rose said. “Anything we decide collectively would have to involve the community, but we are not involving them.”