New faces, appointment could shake up Phoenixville council dynamic

PHOENIXVILLE — Moving into 2014, borough council’s dynamics could change with new faces from November’s election, familiar faces taking on new roles, and the appointment of a new council member due by early February.

Four current council members will carry over to 2014. East Ward representative Mike Speck won his bid for mayor and will resign from council Jan. 3. Richard Kirkner, Dave Gautreau and Karl Bucus all decided against running for re-election.

2013’s council had a 5-3 Democrat majority with Democrats Kirkner and Speck serving as president and vice president, respectively.

Of the four returning council members, three — Jenn Mayo, Jim Kovaleski, and Dana Dugan — are Democrats and one — Christopher Bauers — is a Republican.

Following the results of November’s election, Mike Kuznar and Jon Ichter Jr., Republicans, and Jeremy Dalton, a Democrat, will join council.

Dugan was the only returning council member up for election. She won, unopposed all the way.

As such, in the reorganization meeting, Democrats will still hold a majority, 4-3, before choosing a new council representative from the East Ward, which they must do within 30 days of Speck’s resignation.

A majority could come into play during appointments, the council’s new Republican members have said.

“The difference in party affiliations is obviously only significant when there are votes down party lines — which happens but does not seem to happen a lot, in my opinion,” Ichter told The Mercury. “It seems as though this only becomes important during appointments, which obviously will come into play with the appointment for Mike Speck’s seat.”

“The Democrats still have the majority in council and I don’t feel like it’s going to change much where that applies,” Kuznar said. “Where the majority makes a difference is instances like appointments to boards and committees such as (the) planning commission or zoning board.”

Dalton declined comment on the issue and none of the current council members replied to The Mercury for comment.

The appointment of a Democrat would return the majority to the previous 5-3. A Republican would even things up at 4-4.

Kuznar said that he doesn’t feel party lines matter as much in the month-to-month operations of borough council, such as “deciding stop signs, pot holes and hiring extra police officers.”

Bucus was actually appointed when Kyle Guie resigned his council seat due to moving away for work in a vote that crossed party lines.

“Council has appointed members of both Republican and Democratic parties as well as non-partisans,” said Kuznar, who was appointed to the planning commission in another vote that crossed party lines.

As far as reaching out to possible candidates to fill Speck’s seat, Ichter said he’d only had one person come forward interested in the position.

“I do not know of any others currently interested,” he said.

“Party doesn’t particularly matter to me but ... I, being a Republican, am more likely to know more Republicans than Democrats,” Kuznar said.

Kuznar told The Mercury he has recommended a candidate, Robert Bolton, for council, though Bolton is actually a Democrat.

Bolton currently serves on the borough’s tree advisory commission. He said he also serves on the borough’s parks and recreation committee and formerly served on the board of directors of Phoenixville Area Community Services.

He told The Mercury he does, in fact, plan on applying for the East Ward seat.

Ichter said, ideally, a person filling Speck’s role would have lived a few years in the borough, “some community involvement” and interview well.

“I will look at all of those things before party affiliation,” Ichter emphasized, but added, “It would be nice to have a split council, though.”

Kirkner served as the past council’s president and Speck was vice president. With them leaving council, both leadership positions are wide open heading into the reorganization meeting.

Both Ichter and Kuznar said they wouldn’t seek nominations.

“I do not anticipate a new member of council being appointed to the presidency. If I had to guess, my prediction is it will be a Democrat who has been on council prior to this past election,” Ichter said. “I believe those positions should go to two individuals with a little more tenure. I, personally, would not support a rookie filling either of those roles.”

“I don’t think any of the rookies will have a chance, nor would I even be comfortable with them being in those positions, even if they were on my party line,” Kuznar said. “Council president is a big position and I want someone in there that has actually served on council for a respectable amount of time.”

This version of the article removes a quote wrongly attributing Bolton’s political party.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.