Donora Borough Building

Donora Borough Building

DONORA – Five candidates have submitted letters of interest in a vacancy on borough council in Donora.

There are some familiar names among those five. They are former council members P. Jane Ackerman, John Conger and Gilbert Szakal, along with newcomers Matthew Vitalbo and James Horning.

Council is expected to appoint one of the five at its meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. An appointment must be made this week since a vacancy must be filled by a vote of council within 30 days under state law.

A vacancy exists because Don Pavelko won election as mayor of Donora, beginning his four-year term earlier this month. The person appointed will fill the remaining two years of Pavelko’s term on council.

Ackerman, whose term expired in December, just missed reelection in the race for four spots in council. She amassed 339 votes in November. Michael McDowell secured the fourth highest vote total with 393 votes. Vitalbo came even closer with a write-in campaign, amassing 360 votes in November.

Conger and Szakal each have run for mayor of Donora in the past as well.

This is Pavelko’s second stint as borough mayor.

Pavelko, 66, was originally on council from August 1999 until October 2014, when he was appointed mayor, replacing John “Chummy” Lignelli, who retired after holding the post for two decades. Pavelko won a two-year term as mayor in the 2015 election.

He returned to council in January 2020.

“I decided it was time to get back into the mayor’s seat,” Pavelko said of his return to the position. “The mayor is the P.R. man for a borough. I’ve always thought the mayor’s report at a council meeting was one of the most important things borough government has at its disposal.”

Pavelko does have a vision for the borough as its mayor.

“I would like to move Donora forward,” he said. “I had a pretty good network in my other term as mayor and I want to try to build on that. I want to be the P.R. man for Donora. There’s a lot of good things in Donora and I want to bring them to light. The citizens are my No. 1 concern.”

Pavelko does hope to have an office for the mayor at the borough’s administration building.

His predecessor – James McDonough – did not use the office and it became the borough administrator’s office.

“That building has always been there since 1978 and it’s always been the mayor’s office,” Pavelko said, adding he’d like a space with some room to meet with people. “For a mayor, who is the chief executive of a borough, to have people come in, and bring them to a cubbyhole is not a good impression of the borough.”


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