Mayoral candidates speak at forum
STRASBURG – Hopefuls running for town mayor spoke at a candidates’ forum Tuesday.
Town Councilmen Donald Le Vine and Richard “Rich” Orndorff Jr. and former councilman Justin Ritenour are vying for the mayor’s seat in the May 3 election.
The Strasburg Chamber of Commerce held the forum at Signal Knob Middle School. Close to 40 people attended the event including several other council members. Orndorff serves as president of the chamber’s board of directors. Each candidate gave an introductory statement and then responded to questions submitted by audience members. Candidates then gave closing remarks. Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV moderated the forum.
Questions and candidates’ responses are as follows:
Explain your experience that has prepared you for the position of mayor and, since each one of you has served on council, what is the one thing you did while in office that you are most proud of?
Le Vine noted his experience on council but also his time in the U.S. Army followed by his years of supporting the national defense and intelligence communities. Le Vine recalled having to manage a diverse group of physicists.
“It taught me how to deal with people,” Le Vine said. “It taught me how to deal with the unexpected. It taught me how to be optimistic even in the most difficult days over defense issues.”
Le Vine cited his development of a budgeting program he created for the town when he joined council that remains in use today and the vision committee he pulled together as his accomplishments.
Orndorff pointed out that he has served as mayor before and also noted his experience as a member of council and the Planning Commission as well as time with civic groups. Orndorff added that he served with the Strasburg Rescue Squad. Orndorff said he worked three years on Capitol Hill for the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The one thing I am most proud of on council is I have always, always been willing to listen to all the citizens, speak up for all the citizens, even when it’s unpopular and I am still very willing to do that,” Orndorff said. “I’ll talk to you in the grocery store. You can call me at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Ritenour, in response the latter part of the question, recalled his election to council and noted that while he wants to consider that his proudest accomplishment, he gave the credit to the people who supported his campaign and elected him to office.
“Yes, I ran for council and I was elected, served for four years and I also want to say that some of the things that maybe qualify me to be mayor is some of the things that I have learned in my current job with dealing with customers, dealing with philosophies and serving people, also serving with the Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad and also being a small business owner and having many ventures,” Ritenour said. “But also just as the door that I felt was going to be closed, I put my foot in it and said, ‘No, the youth needs to be involved.'”
What features about Strasburg do you like and what challenges face the town?
“It’s the people,” Orndorff said. “It’s the people that have lived here all your life. It’s the people that have just moved here but we all call it home, we all call it our hometown … I love getting stopped at the grocery store and have my ice cream melt because somebody feels comfortable enough to talk to me.”
Orndorff said the town’s biggest challenge is economic development and Strasburg needs to nurture existing businesses.
Ritenour said he agreed with Orndorff about the importance of the town’s people and also cited the area’s beauty as an asset.
“I will say right now that some of the biggest things that we face – and I see this with business owners large and small – is economic development but it’s enticing businesses that are here to stay by giving them incentives to grow and inviting new businesses to move in here,” Ritenour said.
Le Vine said he’s impressed most by the potential of the people of Strasburg.
“The future is in front of us,” Le Vine said. “We can grow. We can be prosperous again because we have wonderful people here who have desires, who love their town.”
Le Vine said a sense of community underlies the challenge of economic development. Without the sense of community, the town will not see economic development because businesses want to come to a place that feels friendly and people work together, Le Vine said.
What is the extent of your community involvement?
Ritenour cited his experience volunteering for the FFA in high school, serving with the Strasburg Volunteer Rescue Squad as well as working with the Chamber of Commerce and other civic groups. Ritenour admitted that he’s been absent from serving in the community because his job takes him away from town. Ritenour said he’s still active and getting back into it and checks the minutes of the Strasburg council meetings online.
Le Vine pointed out that, unlike the other two candidates, he wasn’t born in Strasburg but, instead, moved to town 22 years ago. Le Vine said he had to find other ways to become part of the community and set out to meet people. Le Vine added that he got elected to council by going door to door, talking to people.
Orndorff recalled delivering newspapers for the newsstand in Strasburg in his youth. Orndorff said he got to know Strasburg through mowing lawns for neighbors and other people in town. Orndorff also noted that he met people through the Rotary Club and, at a young age, decided he wanted to be like those residents. Orndorff cited his time with the rescue squad and the Chamber of Commerce.
Responses from Town Council candidates will run in Friday’s edition.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org