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Election 2019: State College Borough Council

by on October 29, 2019 3:26 PM

Four State College Borough Council seats are up for election on Nov. 5, and at least two new members will take seats on the borough's governing body in 2020.

Seven candidates are on the Nov. 5 ballot: Democrats Deanna Behring, Jesse Barlow (incumbent), Janet Engeman (incumbent) and Peter Marshall won nominations in the primary, with Engeman and Marshall also winning dual nominations on the Republican ballot. Lynn Herman was the lone primary candidate to run as a Republican and Democrat Tom Dougherty won a spot on the ballot with a Republican write-in nomination. Katherine Watt is running unaffiliated. 

Current councilwoman Catherine Dauler has reached the limit of two consecutive terms and so could not seek reelection. Councilman David Brown was eligible for another term but did not win a nomination in May's primary.

State College Borough Council consists of seven members, each elected to four-year overlapping terms. Council sets borough policy and is responsible for municipal government. Members work part-time and receive no compensation. editor Geoff Rushton conducted interviews for C-NET with five of the seven candidates on the ballot for borough council. Herman and Dougherty did not participate in C-NET interviews. The video interviews with each appear below, along with the text of candidates' closing statements from the League of Women Voters Candidates Night on Oct. 2.

Dougherty and Behring did not participate in Candidates Night. The text of Behring's opening remarks from her C-NET interview are included instead.

In their video interviews, candidates answer questions about balancing revenue growth and affordability, development and zoning, policing, the Centre Region Council of Governments, race relations, town-gown relations and the future of fire protection services, as well as discussing their backgrounds and qualifications.

Jesse Barlow

Democratic candidate Jesse Barlow is seeking his second term on council. He is a professor of computer science and engineering at Penn State, where he has worked for 38 years.

Candidates Night Closing Remarks

State College Borough faces significant challenges in the coming years. As we’ve heard, we wrestle with fiscal issues, town-gown issues, student-long-term resident issues, affordable housing, traffic issues, and we’re rezoning for the first time in 60 years. These challenges require listening, experience and prudent decision-making. I’ve engaged and remain engaged in all of these issues.

Council has accomplished a lot in the last four years. On June 3, from an initiative I worked on with the Sierra Club, the borough made a pledge to become carbon neutral and move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. In that regard we joined Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh and, as of today, Philadelphia as a Ready for 100 municipality. Two years ago, along with other council members and Professor Shoba Wadhia at Penn State, we passed an important resolution on immigrant rights. Our police and borough agencies don’t ask people’s immigration status and don’t keep information on it. The borough is now one of the four most LGBTQ-friendly communities in the commonwealth. We banned gay conversion therapy; we established an LGBTQ advisory board; we got rainbow crosswalks downtown; and we already had nondiscrimination ordinances in housing and development.

These initiatives on the environment, on nondiscrimination and on human rights reinforce State College values and I’ll continue to work for them. I’ll continue to advocate for the borough in Harrisburg and Washington. Thank you for listening to all of us. I will continue to listen to you.

Deanna Behring

Democratic candidate Deanna Behring, who was the leading vote-getter in the primary, is running for council for the first time. She is assistant dean and director of international programs for Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and was an assistant director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration.

Interview Opening Remarks

I’m glad I have a chance to be back here again after having a successful primary and first wanted to say thank you to everybody who helped through that campaign and those who helped educate me about some of the most pressing issues here in State College Borough so I can be a better public servant. I really appreciate that and the fact that our campaign platform of the three Es — energy, equity and the environment — carried through, and I look forward to taking that forward for the general election on Nov. 5.

My husband of 30 years and I moved here 20 years ago to raise our two children. We specifically sought out the community of State College because we knew it would be a really enriching place to raise a family, and so now I’m excited about giving back. I came here to take on a job at Penn State University where I now serve as the assistant dean for international programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Before that I had a long career in the federal government in Washington, D.C., working in the Clinton-Gore White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the CIA , the Commerce Department and other places that I think have really given me some skill-sets and ideas about where local government fits into national and global issues.

I’m particularly personally inspired to run for two reasons. One, I used to have some faith in federal government to really protect what the American people care about and in recent years I’ve become a little bit afraid that the things that are most important to our families, our communities, our economies are under some threat. I’m running because I want to be a part of a strong local government to make State College what we want it to be and to protect what we want it to be. I’m also running because I hopefully can set an example for young people, especially young women, that says ‘You can do this too,’ and that politics and government is a noble profession where you can do good and stand by your values.

Janet Engeman

Democratic/Republican candidate Janet Engeman is seeking a second term on council. She is retired from a varied career as a labor market analyst, social policy researcher and computer software industry manager.

Candidates Night Closing Remarks

Let’s start by saying I’m an environmentalist. I’m a member of a number of environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition. I’ve been a nature freak ever since I was a kid. But I’m also interested in diversity and I represent the interests of the whole community. Diversity is our strength and I support it. I’m a member of the Campus and Community Unity Group, NAACP, the Human Rights Commission and the Community Diversity Group. I’m an administrator for Corrective Gentlemen, an organization devoted to facilitating constructive re-entry from correctional institutions.

My three top priorities are: to seek creative solutions to our budget issues that do not increase property taxes and drive established residents out of the borough, while striving to maintain our excellent services and quality of life; to implement comprehensive rezoning to help guide development, maintain neighborhoods and make home ownership attractive and affordable to young professionals, retirees and nonprofessionals who work here; [and] to foster cooperation with the university so we can continue to work together to solve social and environmental problems that affect the health and safety of all borough residents on both sides of College Avenue.

I believe that my time on borough council has given me the knowledge and the skills that are necessary to do this.

Lynn Herman

Republican candidate Lynn Herman is seeking his first term on borough council. He was state representative for the 77th district from 1983-2006 and is a former member of College Township Council.

Did not participate in a C-NET interview

Candidates Night Closing Remarks

I made mention throughout this forum about my experience in state and local government nearly all my life. I’d like to put my experience and expertise to work for the residents of State College Borough. I served in the state legislature for 24 years. During that timeframe I was on the education committee and also the subcommittee for higher education for those 24 years where the thoughts and concerns of our local school districts and Penn State University could be heard.

But more importantly as it pertains to running for State College Borough Council is that my last 10 years serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, I was chairman of the House local government committee and where all legislation dealing with boroughs and townships and counties, and also councils of governments, came through my committee for approval. I was a very active chairman. We did a lot of work to pass legislation to help boroughs manage their affairs. I also made mention, and will emphasize again, I didn’t stop there. I went to the local level and I was elected to College Township Council, served as chairman of College Township Council. I had a seat on the Centre Region Council of Governments and currently also am chairman of the State College Borough Authorities Board and on State College Borough Tree Commission.

I would like to put all my experience to work for the residents of State College Borough to make this as much and maybe better place to live, work, raise children and also be safe in our community.

Peter Marshall

Democratic/Republican candidate Peter Marshall is seeking his first term on borough council. He was State College borough manager for 17 years until retiring in 2003, then founded a municipal consulting firm that has served 45 Pennsylvania municipalities.

Candidates Night Closing Remarks

Someone said earlier that local government was the lowest level of government and I take issue with that. I think it’s the highest level of government and the federal government is the lowest level of government. I have been managing local governments and advancing the cause of local government for 54 years, and I think that I can bring quite a bit of information that will help State College Borough.

I think that State College Borough needs to articulate a positive long-term vision and I believe we need to focus on long-term solutions and not short-term fixes. It’s too easy to respond to short-term fixes and not think of the ramifications in the long term. That’s what we need to do. I think we need to do that with zoning and I think we need to do that with everything else.

Katherine Watt

Unaffiliated candidate Katherine Watt is seeking her first term on borough council. She is an independent journalist and publisher, community organizer and paralegal.

Candidates Night Closing Remarks

I started getting involved in civic issues after I read a book in 2005 called “The Party’s Over: Oil, War & The Fate of Industrial Nations,” and the point of the book is basically that the next 20 years are going to be extremely different from the past 20 years in everything most of us have known because of the declining access to cheap fossil fuels that underpin our entire economy. So I’ve worked for the last 15 years on the civil society front on local resilience issues like Spring Creek Homesteading Fund [which] is a re-skilling program; working with Friends and Farmers Co-op; working on campaigns to stop the Toll Brothers/Whitehall Road Regional Park projects to protect that farmland.

And I want to bring that perspective onto the governmental board, knowing that I’m going to be very far off the picture of where most of the other representatives are, and knowing that I’m going to lose most of the votes because my perspective is so far outside what is considered acceptable. But I think it’s important to bring those perspectives, even though they’re outside of the norm, to make space for more people to come so that those perspectives can be brought more into the mainstream.

For me it’s about water and food security completely.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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