By Steven Hoffman
The Primary Election did little to clarify the race for four seats on Oxford Borough Council. There were seven candidates bidding for those seats in May and there are still seven candidates entering the Nov. 5 General Election.
Talk to the four incumbent council members—president Ron Hershey, vice president Sherry Andrews, Jamie Cole and Walter Saranetz—about the election and you immediately get the sense that they believe the borough is making progress with economic development, the budget, and other issues.
Voters will decide whether they prefer returning the incumbents to their positions or giving political newcomers Randy Grace, Paul Matthews and Gary Tozzo the chance to serve on council.
Hershey and Andrews hold leadership positions and have served on council for eight years apiece.
Hershey said that he is proud that he played a part in helping with Oxford’s revitalization efforts during his time on council, and he would like to continue to be supportive of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. and initiatives like the one where Oxford Borough is seeking an Anchor Building Grant to facilitate the redevelopment of the Octoraro Hotel.
“We’re progressing well on revitalizing the borough. We have some exciting things happening and I want to see them through. I think we live in a good community. We have a community that works together.”
Recent examples of that are the multi-municipal comprehensive plan that Oxford officials collaborated with leaders from the surrounding townships on, as well as the project to build a new Lighthouse Youth Center.
Andrews leads Oxford’s Finance Committee. It has taken considerable work and time, especially in recent years, to keep a careful watch over the annual budget.
“My main thing has always been working on the budget,” Andrews said.
She is a lifelong resident of Oxford who said that she cares deeply about the town and wants it to prosper—that the motivation behind her first two terms, and why she wants to serve the community another four years.
“That’s something that I feel strongly about—it’s something in my heart,” she said.
Cole has twice been selected to fill vacancies on borough council and has served continuously since May of 2011. He has served on the Codes Committee and has also done extensive work for events planned by Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. His wife, Sue, is currently the executive director of the organization.
“This council has proven that it can work together and get things done,” Cole said. “We’re fortunate that we have a council that has some differences, but we also have the ability to work together. All of us have that vision to move things forward.”
Like Cole, Saranetz was appointed to fill a vacancy on council and is seeking his first full four-year term. Saranetz said that he is pleased that council members have worked so well together, and he has enjoyed his 18 months serving the community.
“Everyone on this council, I firmly believe, is dedicating to making this borough a great place to live. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with these people.”
In addition to his council duties, Saranetz was a member of the Oxford Town Watch for five years and served on the Historical Commission and Planning Commission.
Heading into the Primary Election, Grace said that his family moved up to the area from Jacksonville, Fla. in 2001 and they knew right away that Oxford was where they wanted to settle.
“This is a place that I’ve loved ever since I drove through it the first time,” Grace said.
He is a group leader for Automated Financial Systems, according to his profile on www.smartvoter.org. He said that high taxes are the major issue in the borough, and if he were elected to council he would do everything he could to find ways to reduce spending. Grace also wants to focus on downtown revitalization and improving transparency by utilizing every method possible to get information out to residents, particularly social media.
Matthews’ priorities are similar to Grace’s. He works as a safety and quality manager in the corrugated box industry. He is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. He also oversees a non-profit organization established in his son, Eli’s memory. The organization raises funds to battle childhood cancer.
Tozzo, a member of the borough’s planning commission, has worked for the last 20 years in the fresh produce industry selling fruits and vegetables to retailers and wholesalers.
The incumbents were all in agreement that partisan politics has no place at the table when council members are making decisions that will affect the town’s future.
“We have our differences,” said Hershey, “but it’s not along political lines.”
“Once we’re here, we’re all the same,” Andrews agreed.
“There are no partisan politics being played here,” said Saranetz, a registered Independent.
“And we want to keep it that way,” Hershey said.