Candidates gear up for Pine-Richland school board primaries - PineCreek Journal

Candidates gear up for Pine-Richland school board primaries

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | 1:30 AM


Quin McLaughlin knows he’s an unusual candidate for a spot on the Pine-Richland school board.

He’s 22, and the primary will be held a week after his graduation with a business administration degree from Slippery Rock University. He doesn’t have any children in the district. He graduated from Pine-Richland himself only four years ago.

“I’m definitely not your typical candidate,” he said.

However, McLaughlin believes his youth and proximity in age to current students will give him a unique perspective and make him a valuable member of the board, if elected.

“The next closest person is at least twice my age, and it would be great to have a bit of youth on the board to show what students really need these days,” McLaughlin said. “The board does a great job, but a fresh set of eyes doesn’t hurt.”

The election in region three, which includes Richland districts one through five, is somewhat unusual in that there are three seats open. Two are for four-year terms, and one is for a two-year term. McLaughlin is running for the two-year term, along with current Directors Carla Meyer and Matthew Mehalik. All three are cross-registered as Democrat and Republican.

Meyer and Mehalik are also running for four-year terms. If one were to win both, the candidate would choose which seat he or she wanted and the board would appoint someone for the seat not chosen.

“We’re going to see how the votes settle out,” Mehalik said. “Essentially, it’s such that it appears both Carla and I are positioned to have four-year seats. Then, whether or not Quin would get the two-year seat or if the two-year seat would be filled by board appointment down the road remains to be seen. It’s still the primary, so we need to have the general election, but this is about who gets listed on the ballot in November, and presumably it will look very similar to what it looks like currently.”

McLaughlin’s interest in public office was heavily influenced by his grandfather, Charles McLaughlin, a long-time magistrate in the South Hills. He’s also close friends with Jacob Pavlecic, whose father, Robert Pavlecic, was elected to Pine-Richland’s school board in 2017 but passed away unexpectedly before his first term began.

Mehalik was appointed in January 2018 to fill that vacancy.

During that time, he said, the board has undertaken a variety of projects, including crafting the strategic plan for 2019 through 2023, in-depth program reviews and board policy reviews. They’ve also held the line on taxes and restructured debt to reduce costs.

“We’ve been able to talk through difficult issues but amicably and in a way to recognize each other as colleagues,” he said. “The past year and a half has been a really positive experience in terms of how decision making and governance can occur when you get the right mix of people and the right type of leadership in place.”

Given the choice, Meyer said, she would take the four-year seat because she likes the work she’s been doing the past year and a half and hopes to continue. She echoed Mehalik’s sentiments about the board’s ability to work together.

“We have respect for each other, we listen to each other, we consider everyone’s thoughts and opinions but we also work to come to a consensus, which I think is very valuable,” she said.

McLaughlin hopes that one way or another he gets the opportunity to join that mix. If either Mehalik or Meyer wins the two-year seat in November as well as the four-year seat and opts for the latter, the board would then appoint someone to the two-year seat. McLaughlin hopes that if that scenario unfolds, he might win the appointment.

“Even if I don’t get elected I still plan on going to the meetings and making my presence known,” he said. “I still want to make an impact on my community and I will go out of my way to do what I can.”