Richard Jacobelli believes there's a reason for everything in life, and in his case, there was a reason in 2005 he decided to return to his childhood home in Jeannette and then a few years later to seek the mayor's job.
"You have to have faith in God," said Mr. Jacobelli, 65, who in last week's primary election defeated incumbent Mayor Bob Carter for the Democratic Party's nomination. No Republican ran for the nomination.
Mr. Jacobelli sought the post although Jeannette is facing the worst financial crisis in its 125-year history. For some time, city officials have been scrambling to avoid the city being declared financially distressed under Act 47, the Pennsylvania Municipal Recovery Act, with the state then taking control of city affairs.
Mr. Jacobelli, who describes himself as a "conservative Democrat," said that now is not the optimum time for a political newcomer to take hold of the city's reins, but he believes that he has the qualifications and experience to put Jeannette back on the right path.
"I believe in giving back to the community what life has given to me," he stated.
A Jeannette native, Mr. Jacobelli left the area at age 20 to become an airplane mechanic. A graduate of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, Mr. Jacobelli moved to the West Coast when he was hired as an aircraft technician by Delta Airlines.
"I can still remember the feeling I had when I first saw all the lights as I flew into Los Angeles," he said. Mr. Jacobelli said it was quite an experience as his life up until that point had been limited mostly to southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Jacobelli lived in Los Angeles for 11 years, then Salt Lake City for 27 years before retiring and moving home to the house that he grew up in on Michigan Avenue. To keep busy, he got a part-time job selling televisions at Sam's Club.
"When I applied, the manager looked at my technical background and immediately offered me a job," he said.
Over the past few years, as the city's financial condition became worse, Mr. Jacobelli said he realized, along with many other residents, that drastic measures needed to be taken and someone was needed to make a change.
"That's when I decided to run for mayor," he said.
Mr. Jacobelli said he wasn't sure of his chances, but felt it was something he had to pursue. During his campaign he said he went door-to-door re-introducing himself and listening to residents' concerns.
"It was wonderful meeting people," he said.
Mr. Jacobelli won his party's nod spending only $280 on his campaign. Now he said he is doing his homework, including studying the City of Jeannette's Early Intervention and Five-Year Plan, so he is prepared to address some of the city's most pressing issues. Most of those, he said, involve the cost of the city's street, sanitation and fire departments. He admits that some of the changes that Jeannette needs to survive might not be well received by many residents, but said he "has the city's best interest" at heart.
"I base my life on principles and hard work," he said.
Mr. Jacobelli no longer works at Sam's Club; he quit to spend more time on his campaign.
In the meantime, he's enjoying spending time with his family and residents, reading historical books and working on his remote control airplane collection.
But, among local circles, Mr. Jacobelli said he may be best known for his homemade pies. "I just love to bake," he said.
Mr. Jacobelli is a past master and current secretary of the Jeannette Masonic Lodge. He is a member of the Royal Arch, a Masonic group, and a member of the Knights Templar, which meets in Duquesne. He attends Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greensburg.
One of his daughters lives in Ogden, Utah, while the other lives in Denver. Mr. Jacobelli has five grandchildren, ranging in age from 4 to 22.neigh_east - electionsmunicipal - neigh_westmoreland
Linda Metz, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org