Richard Biever, the co-director of Singing Onstage and artistic director of FUSE Productions in State College, announced on Thursday his candidacy for State College Borough Council in this year’s election.
“I’m running for council to be a part of what makes State College so special, but also to take a look at the challenges that have arisen in the past year,” he said in a statement.
Biever is among four candidates so far who have announced their intention to run on the Democratic ballot in the May 18 primary, joining former councilwoman Cathy Dauler, current Mayor Ron Filippelli and current councilwoman Katherine Yeaple.
A borough resident and small business owner for more than 20 years, Biever said addressing the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is a priority.
“Small businesses, especially those in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, have been hit hard,” he said. “My wife and I know very well because our theatre school and theatre company took big hits during the pandemic.”
He added that he would be an advocate for a $15 minimum wage and job creation, noting that more jobs would mean not only a larger tax base for the borough but also stability for the community.
“Food insecurity and adequate low-cost housing are major issues,” Biever said. “How can we call our home ‘Happy Valley’ when so many are suffering?”
Following the 2019 fatal police shooting of Osaze Osagie, a borough resident who was experiencing a mental health crisis when he charged at officers with a knife, Biever said police training and reallocation of funding to mental health, domestic violence and homelessness services are priorities.
“We need to take non-policing issues off of their plate and give them to professionals trained in those areas,” Biever said, adding that he supports council’s formation of a mental health crisis services task force and a civilian response team to work with officers on certain calls.
Biever said he also wants to approach borough zoning with the goal of “diverse and inclusive neighborhoods, with more single-family homes, well-maintained parks and pedestrian and bike paths.”
He cited addressing climate change as another of his platform issues, saying it “will require massive efforts” in all areas of government and business.
Biever holds a master of fine arts degree in directing for musical theatre from Penn State, where he is an adjunct lecturer in the School of Theatre.
He and his wife, Heidi Dittmar Biever, have three children, and are members of First Church of Christ, Scientist, in State College.
Three State College Borough Council seats are up for election this year. Current council members Evan Myers and Theresa Lafer are term-limited and cannot run this year. Yeaple currently holds the third seat up for election.