HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY – (WBRE/WYOU) The May primary election may be three months away, but the race for the mayor of one of our region’s largest cities is already heating up.
The list of candidates running for Hazleton mayor is growing.
Of the candidates, four of them thus far, are well known names in the city of Hazleton including incumbent Republican, Jeff Cusat.
Cusat says the city is moving in the right direction. The other candidates say they aren’t so sure about that.
Republican Jeff Cusat says he deserves another four year term as mayor to finish what he started. He calls it the rebirth of the Mountain City.
“I’ve been here the last three years, and I’ve made some tough decisions that had to be made to make the city move forward. Those decisions are in place. The city is moving forward, and it’s a better place than four years ago,” said Mayor Cusat.
Cusat says one of those tough decisions was to apply to the commonwealth to have the city designated as a distressed city, Act 47, which he insists will straighten out the city’s financial situation.
“We have economic growth. We’ve been fighting blight. Crime is down 44% since I took office,” said Mayor Cusat.
But Republican Allison Barletta, who is a member of the city council, says the city can do much better. She will oppose Cusat on the primary ballot.
“Well, actually my year on council has been definitely eye-opening. I see what is working and what is not. I’m listening to the residents and employees. I’m seeing what’s working and what isn’t,” Barletta said. “I would also like to put 100% transparency. Everything is going to be open to residents,” she continued.
Businessman, Bob Yevak is running on the Democratic ticket.
“I’m 64 years old. My whole life is in Hazleton. I’ve been here. The city’s treated me good. I want to make a difference,” said Yevak. “I want to go out and help my fellow seniors, help them where they won’t be losing their homes. They want to bail out of town. We want to make it safer than it is. No matter what has to be done,” he continued.
Two other Democratic candidates are former council member Grace Cuozzo, who says her priority will be to turn the city’s finances around and Maria Jackatti of Hazleton.
More candidates are expected to come forward, and nominating petitions can be circulated starting February 19th. The mayor’s salary is $57,000 a year.
The primary is set for May 21st, and Eyewitness News will be taking a look at other key races and issues across the region, leading up to the primary.