Lower Saucon Township Council: A Primary Election Voter’s Guide

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In the May 19 primary election for three Lower Saucon Township Council seats, three candidates will appear on the Democratic ballot and four candidates will appear on the Republican ballot. The Republican candidates are incumbent Tom Maxfield, Donna Louder, Sandra Yerger and Bill Ross. The Democratic candidates are incumbents Priscilla deLeon and David Willard, and Gary Gorman.

Saucon Source requested that each candidate submit a position statement that includes information about about why they’re running for office along with information about their background, educational/professional experience, involvement in community affairs and volunteer experience. Each candidate was also asked to answer this question: What do you believe is the most important issue facing Lower Saucon Township, and how do you plan to address it if elected?

The responses from the seven candidates follow in alphabetical order:

PRISCILLA deLEON

I was elected to Lower Saucon Council in 1988.

Priscilla deLeon (contributed photo)

Priscilla deLeon (contributed photo)

The most important issue at this point is preserving quality of life for our residents!

I will continue to stay on top of all the issues, ask questions to ensure a responsive government, and promise to be fair working toward better communication.

Economic development is crucial to our survival. I support commercial development that serves the needs of the township citizens. I supported the creation of the Economic Development Task Force with a goal of increasing the township’s tax base and employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, the remaining undeveloped land in this township is very attractive to developers. We cannot jeopardize the quality of life of our residents under the guise of favoring commercial development.

I will continue insisting on strict compliance with the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance of the township. My focus is on preserving the rural character of this beautiful township by controlled growth and preservation of open space.

I will not support rezoning that will change our existing comprehensive plan from R20 (1/2 acre minimum), R40 (1 acre) or R80 (2 acre) to UR (urban residential) that would permit the construction of apartment complexes, nor will I support the rezoning of RA (rural agricultural) to light industrial that would permit the expansion of a landfill that was already agreed to have a specific life term.

I will continue to attend meetings and listen to not only our residents, but also residents in neighboring communities who would be impacted by proposed changes. For example, I do not support the PennEast Pipeline project.

I will continue to be dedicated to listening to residents’ needs and respecting residents’ rights when making decisions. I am not a rubber stamp. I am aggressive in the enactment of laws and policies that will protect those rights and improve our quality of life. I have supported the acquisition of “open space land” where it served the betterment of the community.

I will encourage residents to actively participate in their township by not only exercising their right to vote, but also by attending council and sub-committee meetings and sharing their concerns about the issues before them, by considering serving on one of the many sub-committees so the same people aren’t serving on all the sub-committees, and by holding the township administration accountable by exercising your “Right to Know.”

As in the past, I have always insisted on a detailed budget to ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely and I will continue to do so. I will continue to look for ways to maintain our current tax levels without losing services.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you!

For more information, please visit http://councilwomanpriscilladeleon.blogspot.com/.

GARY GORMAN

My name is Gary W. Gorman and I am running for Lower Saucon Township Council. I have lived in the Lehigh Valley since 1988, when I started attending DeSales University. It is here that I met my future wife, Catherine Schwartz Gorman (Cathy). I graduated in 1992 and began a career in social work, working in nonprofit and county government agencies in Northampton and Lehigh counties; providing casework support services to the most vulnerable and highest-at-risk populations. In 1997, Cathy and I married and a year later we bought our first home in Hellertown. In 1999, I was awarded a full graduate scholarship to Bryn Mawr College where I received a Master’s Degree in social work, specializing in forensic social work. After receiving my Master’s Degree I contracted with counseling agencies to provide forensic treatment to adult and juvenile criminal populations, while continuing to work full-time as a county caseworker. Also, in 1999, my wife and I became licensed foster parents and we fostered many children, but mostly high-risk adolescents. We raised a teenage sibling group for many years, who still keep in regular contact with us.

Gary Gorman (contributed photo)

Gary Gorman (contributed photo)


In 2003, Cathy and I moved to Lower Saucon Township, where we continue to reside. We continued working full-time while raising our foster children. In 2006, our foster children were old enough and moved out of our home. After the fulfilling experience of foster parenting, Cathy and I decided to take the next step and adopt. Three adoptions and two biological children later, our family of five children was complete. After much careful consideration, Cathy and I decided, for our children’s benefit, that I should stay home and raise our children full-time. I left my paying job so I could focus attention on my family.

Through the years of raising all our children, I have had the wonderful opportunity of utilizing many of our community’s resources as all of our children have participated in multiple extracurricular activities, and I have kept a keen interest in local politics, often attending and participating in meetings at our schools and governments. Knowing the joy of fostering, adopting and raising a family has given me a sense of gratitude and a desire to give back to the community.

In 2013, I was appointed to the Lower Saucon Township Parks and Recreation Board and have brought many community members’ suggestions forward, recently getting approval from township council to install playground equipment and a pavilion at Polk Valley Park. Getting funding for these projects and for other vital services (police, township maintenance, etc.) can be difficult as the cost often falls upon us–the taxpayer.

I believe that we live in a wonderful, vibrant community enriched with valuable services, but they come at a high, financial cost. Unfortunately, our township has little commercial or industrial activity to help us sustain our quality-of-life goods and services, which results in higher taxes on all levels. I believe the most important issue facing Lower Saucon Township is the increasing tax burden facing our residents. I believe that as your elected councilman, it is imperative to work in conjunction with other local municipalities, our school system and our state representatives to develop a comprehensive plan to encourage new business, work effectively with current businesses, combine resources and reduce spending and taxes, while preserving, protecting and enriching our beautiful suburban environment.

DONNA LOUDER

Qualifications: Lifetime resident of Lower Saucon Township; 1977 graduate of Saucon Valley School District; Associate Degree in Applied Science-Radiology; Scott-White Real Estate–Realtor (Retired); participant in 2013 Lower Saucon Citizens Academy; three-year volunteer member of Lower Saucon Landfill Committee.

I became interested in our local government when the community I live in was threatened by the possibility of a zoning change from Rural Agricultural to Light Industrial. As I became more involved, I realized the need for a positive change to address the spending habits as well as the need to initiate a new mindset to reward already-established business and to create and welcome new business.

As a resident I question WHY WE HAD A TAX INCREASE IN 2015, when our township has received $2 million annually for the past 12+ years from landfill tipping fees, and the records show in 2014 the township budget was balanced without the landfill revenue.

As a candidate for Lower Saucon Council, my goal is to pursue responsible spending practices and create a SAVE MORE/SPEND LESS mentality.

*Did not submit a photo.

TOM MAXFIELD

During my 11-year tenure as a Councilman I have contributed to and initiated many beneficial changes to Lower Saucon’s ordinances, procedures and general management.

Tom Maxfield (contributed photo)

Tom Maxfield (contributed photo)

Lower Saucon is now recognized as an example of sustainability and innovation for other Pennsylvania communities.

I have served on Lower Saucon’s Planning Commission and Environmental Advisory Council, both for over a decade. Working with staff and consultants, I have been a part of the township’s contract negotiating team that has established successful agreements with both the police force and public works employees. Recently, I have had the privilege of serving as a member of the combined Hellertown Area Library Board representing Lower Saucon residents in the planning of future library facilities and services. I have championed open space preservation and the formation of parks, and I strongly support active and passive recreational opportunities for residents of all ages. That is why I donate my council salary back to the township for open space funding.

In addition to my township duties, I have been employed as a high school teacher for 27 years and worked as a graphic artist for over 30 years. I have lived in the eastern side of Lower Saucon for 18 years.

I believe that, in order to successfully represent the citizens of Lower Saucon, a Councilperson must have the ability to understand controversial issues from all sides and to strike balances that provide substantial benefits to the entire community. This requires Councilpersons to possess accurate, factual data and to make decisions based on the best information available. Balancing concerns of residents with the financial, social and environmental health of the township is a highly sensitive and critical activity, and must be done with experience, a thorough knowledge of current conditions and possible consequences, and desired outlooks for the future.

Lower Saucon Council is currently facing issues dealing with the PennEast pipeline, IESI Landfill expansion, the lack of commercial opportunities, casino impacts and the development of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII on the old Bethlehem Steel coke works site. All of these will require councilpersons to listen closely to residents and to achieve a balance between impacts and benefits to the community. As a candidate for re-election to Council, I would be honored to again serve Lower Saucon and help lead our community to continued health in the 21st century.

BILL ROSS

My name is Bill Ross and I am running for a seat on Lower Saucon Township Council.

Bill Ross (contributed photo)

Bill Ross (contributed photo)

My family and I moved here in November 1999, and I quickly became involved with the community. I joined the Parks and Recreation Board in 2001 and served as its chairman from 2003-2007. I became a member of Lower Saucon Authority Board in 2002 and have served as its chairman since 2008. I am currently serving my second tour as a coach with the Saucon Valley Soccer League, having first coached as my daughters grew up. Now I help coach a team with my two adult daughters.

Being involved in the community has always been a big part of my life. Prior to moving to the township, our family lived in Clinton, N.J., where I was also very involved. I was twice elected to the Clinton Town Council, serving from 1994-1999. While there, I also served on the Parks and Recreation Board, the Newsletter Committee and served as Police Commissioner. I coached a youth soccer team there also, and have served as a youth sports official (little league baseball and youth soccer) both in New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley.

I have been married to my wife Deb for 28 years, and we have been blessed with three amazing daughters: Melissa, Libby and Colleen. Now that Colleen, my youngest, is in college, I feel that I have the time necessary to devote to being a council member. I am a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in journalism. For several years I covered local scholastic sports for the Express-Times and LehighValleyLive.com, but I was laid off as part of a significant downsizing last September. I am proud that I earned a reputation as a fair and impartial reporter. I wrote part-time, more as a labor of love than as a career, which for me has been in the insurance industry. I currently work as a Field Sales Manager for Sterling Insurance in Bethlehem.

The township will face a significant problem when the landfill is no longer operational. We are highly dependent upon the fees we receive from the landfill to balance our municipal budget. We need to prepare for the day when that flow of money will no longer be available. Right now we would face a significant tax increase that many residents might not be able to afford. The council needs to address this issue and find alternative sources of income, and it needs to do it quickly. Once the landfill is no longer operational, it will be too late. We need to have a plan in place that can be seamlessly put in place when it becomes necessary.

I believe that council members need to be available to those who elected them. In the past, councils have limited discussion on controversial issues. I believe that council members are elected to represent the citizens of the township, not to forward their personal agendas. I believe that council members should have office hours when residents can come and voice their opinions to those they elected. I will offer two hours each week–one hour during weekday hours and one on weeknights–when I will be available to those who want to have their voices heard. I strongly urge all candidates and current council members to do the same.

I offer approximately 25 years of public service, a strong history of leadership, a commitment to free and open discussion of issues and a dedication to doing things the right way. I hope that this is what the residents of Lower Saucon Township expect of their elected representatives. I would respectfully ask that they honor me with their votes. I have always felt that votes are earned and not given. I feel that my history of public service has given me the right to ask for the votes of township residents, and pledge that I will do my best to reward the faith that a vote for me shows.

DAVID WILLARD

My name is David Willard and I am running for a second term on the Lower Saucon Township Council.

David Willard (contributed photo)

David Willard (contributed photo)

I was elected to Council in November 2011, shortly after retiring from Olympus Corporation of the Americas where I was employed for 31 years. My first term was truly a learning experience for me. I joined a Council whose members had all served multiple terms. Even though I had over 40 years of business experience, it took time to learn how a township is governed and managed. I now feel I have sufficient knowledge and experience to be a full contributor to the Council for the benefit of our residents. This is why I am seeking a second term.

I am a strong proponent of participation in government. I proposed the idea of a Citizens Academy to help our residents learn about how the township works and how they could get involved. The idea was enthusiastically supported by Council and successfully implemented by staff members. Several graduates of our first Citizens Academy have become much more active on committees and at Council meetings.

I also proposed a proactive effort for economic development in Lower Saucon Township. Business is booming in the Lehigh Valley and we are in the midst of an effort to help suitable businesses locate in Lower Saucon. In 2014, 15 dedicated community members served on an Economic Development Task Force and made recommendations to promote economic development. The effort is continuing in 2015 with a Citizens Committee charged with reviewing the regulations affecting businesses in Lower Saucon. I was asked to chair both committees by their members. The goal is to make our township a “user-friendly” place to do business.

I was appointed by Council to be a liaison with the township’s fire companies. We have been meeting regularly to discuss ways to make the administration of fire services more efficient while maintaining the public safety and security that the township’s dedicated volunteer firefighters provide 24/7 year-round. I’m happy to say we are making good progress.

I am also serving as the township’s liaison to the Northampton County Gaming Authority, which distributes grants of revenues from the Sands Casino to contiguous municipalities. The Authority has provided over $600,000 in grants to Lower Saucon Township since 2009 to fund police officers, police vehicles and other needed services, thereby keeping taxes lower.

My wife, Monica, and I have lived here since 2006 after relocating from Long Island with Olympus. We have three grown children and two grandchildren. We love the Lehigh Valley. I am deeply involved in the community, serving on the boards of PBS39 and ArtsQuest, the Via Marathon Planning Committee and volunteering with additional organizations.

I believe the most important issue facing Lower Saucon Township is balancing growth and change with the qualities that make our community such a desirable place to live. If elected for another term, I plan to do this by listening to our residents, being fully informed and voting my conscience based on the health, safety and welfare of everyone in the community.

My campaign theme is “Willard works for YOU!” You can be assured that I will.

SANDRA YERGER

My name is Sandra Yerger and I am running for a seat on Lower Saucon Township Council.

Sandra Yerger (contributed photo)

Sandra Yerger (contributed photo)

I have lived in the township my entire life, both in Seidersville and in the eastern section of the township. Having lived on both the more populated side of the township and the rural portion of the township has given me a unique personal perspective on the issues that face the majority of township residents.

Lower Saucon is blessed with extraordinary resources including fertile agricultural fields, beautiful woodlands and high quality streams. The township has experienced many changes of the years. It is because of these changes that I became involved with the community. My goal for the township is not to prevent change, but to work to ensure that any changes would be for the betterment of the community and all its residents. I volunteered for many years with scouts and recreational sports, but I became directly involved with the township when I advocated to Township Council to purchase the land to create Polk Valley Park.

I helped to create Lower Saucon’s Environmental Advisory Council that I have chaired for 12 years. In that capacity, I helped spearhead two open space referenda that were overwhelmingly supported by Lower Saucon’s voters to fund the protection of our farmland, natural lands and acquisition of parks. To date, these funds have conserved hundreds of acres. It is well known that communities that have protected open space and provided for outdoor recreation not only preserve the beauty of their community but also preserve the real estate values of their homes.

I am currently serving my second term on the township’s planning commission and have previously served eight years on Council.

Recently the township has been involved with the proposed expansion of the landfill. The funding of services for township residents has been greatly dependent upon fees received from the landfill. But like many businesses the future of the landfill is finite and we need to prepare for when those funds will no longer be available. The loss of landfill income would create a significant tax increase for township residents, so Township Council needs to find alternative sources to provide long-term funding for the township’s needs.

I have served the residents of Lower Saucon for many years. I respectfully ask township voters to support my goals of maintaining the high quality of life for all residents.

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