Primary 2013/East: Majernik's name on Nov. 5 ballot for Plum mayor, Allegheny County council

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Dave Majernik's name will be on the ballot twice on Nov. 5.

As a result, he may have to make a tough decision after votes are counted in the races for mayor of Plum and for Allegheny County Council.

Beating two other candidates in the May primary, Mr. Majernik became the Republican candidate for mayor in his home community. He faces Democratic incumbent Richard Hrivnak, who has served in that office since 2006.

Mr. Majernik also is his party's choice for county council in District 8. It is a J-shaped district in the eastern suburbs that extends from Edgewood and Swissvale to Monroeville and Plum. His opponent is Democrat Charles Martoni, who is seeking his fifth term. Both were unopposed in their primary races for council.

The county charter forbids council members from serving in two elected positions. Should he win both contests, Mr. Majernik would have to select which office to hold.

Mr. Majernik described himself as the underdog in the contests, and he said it was unlikely he would prevail in both races. "But if push comes to shove, I would take the county council seat," he said.

He said he first decided to run for the council position. "Then several people asked me to also run for the mayor's job," he said. He agreed, saying, "I thought it was important not to have any uncontested races."

The current county executive, Rich Fitzgerald, is a Democrat, and his party now holds an 11-4 majority on council. Under those conditions, it is the job of GOP council members to shine a light on the operation of county government, especially the awarding of contracts, Mr. Majernik said.

"We have to be a watchdog on spending so that taxes do not go up," he said.

"The eastern suburbs are often the forgotten stepchildren of Allegheny County," he said. "Most issues in local government do not translate directly to party affiliation, and I would advocate for all the citizens."

Mr. Majernik, 67, was the longtime chairman of the Plum Republican Committee. He resigned that post in January after 15 years. He has been a member of the Republican State Committee since 2002 and serves as vice chairman of the county Republican Committee.

He is a 1963 graduate of the former Munhall High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in English and psychology in 1973 and a master's degree in information science in 1985, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

He is a retired software engineer. He and his wife, Susan, have lived in Plum for 20 years.

Mr. Martoni, 77, is one of county council's original members. Since January 2012, he has served as president of the legislative body.

He is a former mayor of Swissvale, where he lives with his wife, Marianne, and has a full-time job as president of the Boyce campus of Community College of Allegheny County.

A graduate of CCAC, he also earned degrees at Duquesne University and California University of Pennsylvania and has a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

He has served in public offices for more than 40 years. He has been a school board member, borough councilman and mayor, in addition to serving on county council.

He and fellow county council member, John DeFazio, D-Shaler, are remembered by many older county residents for their careers as professional wrestling partners. Mr. Martoni's ring name was the "Masked Marvel," and Mr. DeFazio was "Jumpin' Johnny."

Mr. Martoni said he takes pride in "keeping the peace on council."

"I just try to work with everybody, and make sure that everybody gets a chance to be heard at meetings," he said.

The biggest issue council is likely to face in the near future, he said, is whether and where to allow drilling for natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale layer on county land.

Mr. Fitzgerald has told county council members he hopes to present an ordinance to them early next year to permit "fracking" to release natural gas deposits under Deer Lakes Park.

"I'm still trying to learn all I can about the topic," Mr. Martoni said. "I want to hear from some more experts."

Mr. Majernik said he favored drilling under the county park, believing it could be done in an environmentally sound way.

Council members serve for four years. Their annual salary is $9,000.

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Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184. First Published October 17, 2013 1:13 AM


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