There is a primary fight in Newtown Township between two “GOP endorsed” candidates — Michael Russo and Supervisor John Nawn — and two GOP candidates — John Battista and Ray Lopez.
And there is a lone Democrat seeking election, too — Claude Falcone.
Newtown Township, which elects its supervisors at-large, has term limits for its supervisors — two terms and you’re out. As a result, the at-large seat now occupied by Supervisor Chairman Joseph Catania is up for grabs.
Nawn, a “GOP endorsed” candidate, is seeking re-election to a six-year term, while his “endorsed running mate,” Russo, is seeking his first six-year term. Nawn was elected four years ago to fill the unexpired term of the late Parris “Bob” Slawter, who died April 11, 2011.
Competing for the two at-large seats are Republicans Battista and Lopez and Democrat Falcone.
All five candidates were asked the same questions, and their responses were:
1. Newtown Square elects its supervisors at-large. In what area/neighborhood do you reside?
Falcone: I live in Newtown’s 3rd Precinct, otherwise known at St. Albans.
Lopez: I am a resident of the 1st Precinct and have lived in the Springton Pointe Estates development since 1999.
Battista: I have lived in Newtown Square for almost 60 years. I now live on Camelot Lane in the 1st Precinct, and I grew up in Newtown Heights.
Nawn: My wife and I reside in the 1st Precinct, in the School Lane/Elgin Road/Wisteria Lane neighborhood.
Russo: I reside in Echo Valley
2. Just a little personal background: Are you married? Do you have children? Grandchildren?
Falcone: Married for 31 years to Nancy Falcone. We have one 16-year-old child, Emily. She attends Marple-Newtown High School
Lopez: I have been married for 34 years, my wife and I have two children who went to the Marple-Newtown school system from elementary through high school.
Battista: I am widowed with three daughters.
Nawn: My wife, Barbara, and I have been married for 28 years. Our son, John, graduates from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine in May and will be doing his residency at HUP in nephrology. Our daughter, Julie, is enrolled in a BS/MS program and will graduate in June from Drexel University with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design and Architecture and June of 2016 with her master’s.
Russo: I am married and have three children.
3. What is/was your occupation?
Falcone: I taught English for 20 years.
Lopez: I am at present happily retired for the past five years. I worked for the Department of Defense for more than 40 years, and was a defense contractor of a year-and-a-half before retiring from that position.
Battista: I was a financial advisor and certified financial planner with Merrill Lynch for 43 years, and for the past three years, a portfolio manager with Wells Fargo Advisors.
Nawn: I hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from Drexel University. I am a licensed professional engineer in PA and eight other states. I am a certified professional traffic operations engineer and a certified flood plain manager. I have 30 years of design and management experience in the transportation design and construction industry. I presently work as a Forensic Engineer/expert witness providing engineering analysis and consultation service to the legal community in highway and traffic engineering, construction liability, premises liability, snow and ice control, municipal engineering, vehicular accident reconstruction and commercial vehicle operations. I am also an adjunct professor at Temple University teaching graduate courses in Transportation Engineering and Transportation Systems Management.
Russo: I am the director of construction for a CNG fueling company.
4. Have you previously held office in this township or anywhere else?
Lopez: I have not held an elected position, but did serve in an appointed position.
Battista: I have held many offices in Newtown, but never an elected office.
Nawn: Prior to being elected in 2011 to fill an unexpired term as township supervisor, I was the elected Judge of Elections for the 1st Precinct. I also served on the township’s Planning Commission.
5. Are you active in the township? Is so, in what capacity?
Falcone: I am the chairman of the Democratic Committee of Marple-Newtown. I try to provide an alternative to one-party rule.
Lopez: I volunteered with the Newtown-Edgemont Little League, I was the Springton Pointe Estates Home Owners Association past president for 10 years, I was a board member of the Newtown Township Municipal Authority, and I am presently the vice-president of the Newtown Square Historical Society.
Battista: I am president of the Newtown Square Historical Society and vice-president of the Springton Pointe Woods Homeowners’ Association.
Nawn: I presently serve as a township supervisor for the past four years, including the last two years as vice-chairman of the board. Prior to that, I served as the Judge of Elections in the 1st Precinct for four years. I also served on the Planning Commission for five years including vice-chairman. I served as the township’s representative to the Central Delaware County Authority for two years. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Newtown Square Pennsylvania Railroad Museum.
Russo: I am the former vice-chairman of the township’s Zoning Hearing Board. I am a soccer coach for Marple-Newtown, and I am a NELL baseball coach.
6. What are some of the most important issues facing the township?
Falcone: The most important issue facing the township is the development of residential and commercial property. Traffic problems are an ongoing concern which will be compounded with planned development.
Lopez: I can sum this up in one all-encompassing statement: The supervisors’ decision-making process is an important issue unto itself. This ultimately affects all aspects of the township and residents. The why and how decisions are being made is important, and in the end “who do they really” benefit. For example, the decision to let the Gradyville Road Bridge continue to deteriorate rather than repair it, after I called it to their attention numerous times five years ago, was a township decision.
Battista: Financial stability, township growing and the issues that brings, increased traffic, infrastructure improvements and the need to keep our first responders and police current with the increased population. We are looking at 800 to 1,000 new homes, three large shopping centers along with hotels.
Nawn: Maintaining our low taxes, one of the lowest tax rates in Delaware County. Continuing to foster and support our township manager and staff to operate more efficiently, openly and transparently. Enabling smart development and redevelopment of the township while preserving open space, environmental and historic resources for our present and future residents.
Russo: I feel the township is growing and needs to have a larger vision for smart growth and open space preservation.
7. Based on your answer(s) from question 6, is that why you are running for supervisor? If not, then why are you running?
Falcone: I am running to provide an alternative to the one-party rule that stifles local voices and opinions.
Lopez: The residents need choices for supervisor, not just those selected by one person for the benefit of special interests. I was approached by township residents, and I feel that my running mate and I can make a difference.
Nawn: Yes, that is why I am running for re-election.
Russo: I am running because I feel my 29 years of experience in the development and construction fields would be a great asset to help the township grow in the future.
8. What qualities/expertise would you bring to the Board of Supervisors if you are elected?
Falcone: I will utilize experience gained with 20 years of leadership as a veteran and Army officer, and 20 years as a classroom teacher.
Lopez: Foremost, I am under no obligation to support any individual or any special interest; I offer my allegiance to the residents only. I have managed contracts into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and over the years have kept politics out of any decision-making process. When offer expert advice, I also do my own research and ask questions prior to making decisions.
Battista: I have lived in this township for almost 60 years; I know what the residents are looking for in their community. I have served as chairman of the Planning Commission for more than 10 years, I know our Zoning Ordinances, I know our neighborhoods. I also spent 6 years as vice-chairman of the Municipal Authority and am very familiar with sewer construction and know our traffic study needs to be implemented as traffic skyrockets over the next 6 to 10 years.
Nawn: I am the only candidate in the primary election with experience, serving as a supervisor. My leadership position on the board over the past two years provides me with an unparalleled perspective in addressing the needs of the community with efficient, fiscally responsible and responsive government. My 30 years of experience working with and for government entities at the federal, state and municipal levels gives me a unique understanding of issues, particularly issues related to infrastructure, engineering, planning, development and the environment.
Russo: I would use my development and construction experience to help the board evaluate projects and improvements to the township.
9. If you are elected, what would you do/handle differently as a supervisor?
Falcone: I would work to make the process of local government more transparent and limit executive sessions where most decisions are made.
Lopez: I would open all of the supervisor board meeting and any other high-value meetings of community interest, to be available on the local public access television channel. The residents who cannot attend these meetings need to see their content, and the demeanor and professionalism of those making decisions which affect them. They could then contact the township and their elected representatives if they choose to do so.
Battista: If elected, my first area of business would be to fix our deteriorating roads, some haven’t been fixed in 30 years, and it’s a disgrace. I also would have this township run like a business and make sure the tax dollars spent are prioritized, work on creating new sources of revenue other than taxing the homeowner, use grant money as often as possible.
And listen to what the taxpayer wants. They are the ones who elected me. I would take no salary or any type of benefits. I would place the residents’ interests before mine.
Nawn: If re-elected, I would continue the forward progress that the township has made over the last four years. I would continue to support our township manager and staff in delivering high quality service and responsiveness to the residents through continued improvements in efficiency, transparency and openness.
Russo: I would follow a path of smart growth
10. In what direction would you like to see the township go by the end of your term? What improvements/changes would you like to have made by the end of your term?
Falcone: I’d work to increase recycling pickup to once per week instead of the current one every other week. I will also attempt to have traffic flow through Newtown Township along West Chester Pike at 30 mph by synchronizing lights. I would vote to continue our low tax rates and encourage corporate and business endeavors in our community. Finally, I would work to pass an historical ordinance to protect structures of historical interest in our community.
Lopez: I would like the residents to be involved in decision making. I would like them to be treated respectfully, despite the personal opinions of the township supervisors and management. I would like the residents to feel at ease when addressing their elected officials. I would like the residents to bring their life experiences and professional backgrounds into the governmental process. The Newtown leadership does not always have the inherent subject matter knowledge that some of our own residents may have.
Battista: We are about to see the biggest growth in this township in more than 50 years. This is not the time for inexperience supervisors, I can assure you that the builders and their planners and lawyers are very experienced and I have gone against them many times representing what’s best for you, the residents. We cannot afford on-the-job training for the JV team. Vote for experience, knowledge and integrity.
Nawn: I would like to see the completion of revisions to our Comprehensive Plan and the implementation of those recommendations. I await the decision of the DEP Environmental Hearing Board such that the township can begin the process of designing and constructing the much needed sewer services to the presently un-sewered areas of the township identified in the 537 Plan. I will strive for and support the completions of the 537 Plan improvements before the end of my term. I will continue to support the implementation of the township’s Annual Road Program, including enhancements that allow us to meet the infrastructure needs of our township roadways in a rapid, but fiscally responsive manner. I will continue to strongly support improvements to our police, fire and emergency services facilities to allow them to function better in meeting the critical life safety and property needs of our residents. I will support facility improvements to our public works and township offices to allow our staff to function more efficiently and continue the high level of responsiveness they provide to the residents.
Russo: I would like to be able to improve the town parks; ordinances related to zoning and building architecture types along Route 3; roads and utility infrastructure and the quality of life for all residents.