(WBRE/WYOU) — The November general election is fast approaching.
One of the most closely watched races in our region is that for mayor of Hazleton. And with only weeks to go, the candidates are stepping up their game.
Both candidates, incumbent Republican Jeff Cusat and Democrat challenger Bob Yevak, are well-known and for the most part well-liked in the Mountain City. Cusat insists he deserves another four years. Yevak argues it’s time for a change.
“I want to make a difference. This is my city and I want to take it back, make a difference,” Yevak said.
“We’ve seen progress over the past four years and we will stay committed to that people want to see this out,” Cusat said.
Cusat and Yevak are trying to convince voters that they are the best choice to hold the city’s top job. The city of about 27,000 residents is facing numerous challenges, including financial troubles, as the city is heading for distressed status.
The mayor said he made the tough decisions to come up with a real-life budget, not what he calls fantasy budgets like those of the past.
“We are currently in Act 47 so there are a lot of ideas we want to be shown but yet you can’t. We’re in this plan the next four years and we are dictated by that plan,” Cusat said.
But Yevak insists “We can find different sources of revenues. It’s going to take a whole team effort and getting moral at city hall up over the ceiling again. It’s in the dumpsters right now.”
Crime is another big issue in this race. Cusat points out that the crime rate has been reduced since he’s been in office and says his officers have intensified their efforts to find those responsible for a recent rash of shootings in the city, making several arrests.
“Obviously there’s ways to things better. We’re shorthanded for the size of this city. We need to add 10 more cops in the police department,” Cusat said.
Yevak says that’s not good enough.
“They are shooting people up all over town. Crime’s number one, we got to go out there. We’ve got to chase these bums out of town,” Yevak said.
Cusat also touts his successes in improving the city’s playgrounds as well as a massive street paving project that is now underway. Yevak says while all of that is well and good, he argues more can be done and he wants the chance to show what he can do as mayor.
Cusat served on the Hazleton city council before he was elected mayor. This is Yevak’s first run for public office.