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GOP chairwoman announces bid for Somerset County commissioner

August 29, 2018

Somerset County Republican Party Chairwoman Colleen Dawson announced Tuesday that she will seek her party’s nomination for county commissioner in the 2019 primary.

Dawson, 58, a paralegal with Barbera Law and Stoystown Borough Council president, said she was encouraged to run after Commissioner James T. Yoder, a fellow Republican, announced he was resigning and then was hired to run the Area Agency on Aging.

“The outpouring of encouragement and support for my candidacy has truly been humbling,” she said. “I am inspired by the faith and confidence that people have in me and my abilities to fulfill the duties and obligations of commissioner. As I begin this journey, I am looking forward to meeting with the voters of Somerset County in the coming months.”

Dawson said that while she loves her job, she feels it is time to run for commissioner. She said her husband, Robert, is encouraging her to run.

“It’s such a huge sacrifice,” she said. “He said: ‘This is your passion. This is what you enjoy doing, and I’m in 100 percent.’”

Dawson said she never would have considered running to unseat a current county commissioner. She said that unlike previous boards, Yoder, Gerald Walker and John Vatavuk had a cohesive relationship. Dawson said she submitted a letter to be appointed to replace Yoder despite a directive stating that someone who would not run in 2019 would be preferred.

“I was very clear and transparent that I would not preclude myself from running for the seat in 2019,” she said.

She said that if offered the position, she would fill the remainder of Yoder’s term. Yoder was elected to a four-year term in 2015.

Dawson said she was planning to run, which is why she decided to announce her candidacy early.

“In my mind you are either all in or you are not,” she said. “So why wait?”

Dawson serves on numerous boards, including the Somerset Area Ambulance Association, Somerset County Boroughs Association and Somerset County Affordable Housing Board. She said her accomplishments include leading the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and local state officials to introduce legislation amending recent PLCB law revisions affecting dry municipalities, facilitating the removal of a blighted structure in Stoystown Borough, negotiating with PennDOT for the resolution of a storm sewer situation along Route 30 and advocating for a blight fund in Somerset County.

Dawson was raised in Stoystown Borough, where she has lived her entire life. She has worked for Barbera Law for 33 years and is in her second term as a borough councilwoman.

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