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Editorial: Westmoreland judges make good pick for Monessen council

August 20, 2018

Westmoreland County Courthouse

Kudos to the panel of 10 Westmoreland County judges who recently selected Lois Thomas, a 56-year-old social worker, to fill a vacancy on Monessen City Council that was created when Ronald Chiaravalle died in May. Thomas’ selection places an African-American on the governing board of a city where African-Americans account for 15 percent of the population.

Thomas was selected from a field of nine candidates that included Chiaravalle’s daughter and his great nephew.

In selecting Thomas, the judges rejected the notion that elected offices are family heirlooms to be handed down to the next generation.

By not picking former Monessen mayor and state Rep. Ted Harhai, the judges sent a message that they did not want to be a party to politics as usual in Monessen.

While no one doubts Harhai’s knowledge of state and local government -- he served as mayor and state representative at the same time -- but then this is Monessen -- his selection would have satisfied one faction of Monessen’s politics, while ensuring opposition from another. Politics in Monessen is a blood sport, and feuds like the ones Harhai engages in are measured not in months or years, but decades.

It is politics that put the Mon Valley city in the position of having to turn to the judges to fill the vacancy because Mayor Matt Shorraw and a councilman missed several meetings, preventing council from having a quorum to vote to fill the vacancy.

Those who thought that November’s election of 27-year-old Shorraw over then 80-year-old controversial mayor Lou Mavrakis meant that the torch had passed to a new generation of political leaders are sorely disappointed.

Hopefully, Thomas will bring a new perspective to city government that puts an end to these political games.

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