JOHNSTOWN - Christopher Swatt will get his opportunity to challenge incumbent Councilman-at-Large Bryan Marcucci on Nov. 5 even though Marcucci had Swatt's name removed from the Republican ballot line.
Marcucci, who is a registered Republican, was set to run as a Conservative candidate in the general election against Swatt, who had the Republican line. But Marcucci was successful in his July challenge of Swatt's candidate petitions, which were missing some required information.
Fulton County Republican Elections Commissioner Lee Hollenbeck at the time said Swatt didn't have the Sept. 10 primary date written on one of his petition sheets and he didn't initial changes he made to two other pages.
That left Marcucci as the only candidate for November - until Swatt decided in August to run as an independent, and he successfully claimed a Common Sense party line for the general election. He now will face Marcucci, who is on the Conservative line.
After the death of former Councilman-at-Large Joseph G. Salamack in August 2007, Marcucci was appointed to the position. He defeated Leon Peck in a GOP primary in September 2009 and beat Democratic challenger Francis Caraco in November of that year to win his first full four-year term as councilman-at-large.
The city's councilman-at-large position has a four-year term, starting in January, and it pays $4,413 annually.
The 67-year-old Marcucci, of 34 Rosewood Ave., is a retired photographer and former UPS employee. He also is a downtown building owner and entrepreneur who has been working since 2010 to open a microbrewery and restaurant at 18 W. Main St.
He said he will try to do even more for city residents if elected to another term.
"I enjoy it - I enjoy working with the mayor," Marcucci stated. "I'd like to see the city move forward."
Marcucci said he has accumulated "quite a bit of experience" as a city official the last few years, working as the Common Council's representative for all four wards. He said he can't pinpoint any major issues facing Johnstown.
"Right now, I don't think there is any new issues," Marcucci said. "We have to wait until the new mayor comes in and see what they say."
Republican Mayor Sarah Slingerland will step down at the end of the year, having served two terms. Vying for her job in the Nov. 5 general election will be Republican Scott Jeffers, Democrat Michael Julius and Conservative Helen Martin, who now is the city's 3rd Ward councilwoman.
"I can work with anybody," Marcucci said. "It doesn't matter who it is."
Marcucci said he plans to continue his work with the various department heads in the city, several of whom he praised, including City Engineer Chandra Cotter, Fire Chief Bruce Heberer, Police Chief Mark Gifford and City Treasurer Michael Gifford.
To either maintain or lower property taxes in the city, Marcucci said, the city can do more to promote business growth and the subsequent sales-tax base. He pointed to new businesses starting, such as the T.J. Maxx store under construction on Route 30A, and the overall potential of downtown Johnstown.
"Every little bit helps," Marcucci said.
He said he also will continue to work on communicating with the public to determine residents' needs.
"I've always been pretty open," Marcucci said. "I've always called people back, although some people don't always like the answer."
Swatt, 49, of 11 Nicholas St., is a business developer and manager in Albany.
He is a former member of the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education and served on the district's Restructuring Advisory Committee, which recommended closing Jansen Avenue Elementary School as a cost-saving measure. Swatt also served on the city's Zoning Advisory Committee.
He is a member of the Fulton-Montgomery Community College Board of Trustees, which sets policy and governs the operating budget for the community college. Swatt also is a church school teacher and member of Holy Trinity Church and a girls' basketball official.
Swatt said he is seeking the councilman-at-large position because likes to help his community.
"I enjoy doing the public service," Swatt said. "I have an interest in public service and politics."
He said you can't complain about things unless you're willing to get involved yourself and try to make a difference.
Swatt said he would bring his vast business experience to City Hall. The Johnstown native said he has run several restaurants, including a Ruth's Chris Steak House in Chicago that was a $6.5 million-a-year operation.
"I was very good at that," Swatt said.
A 1982 Johnstown High School graduate, Swatt later received an associate degree in hospitality management and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Paul Smith's College.
Asked about the biggest issues facing Johnstown, Swatt said the city needs to "change our personality" and to "open up as far as our neighbors are concerned." Swatt said he does not necessarily support consolidation with another municipality, however.
Swatt said he would like Johnstown to have more "open communication" and shared dialogue with the Fulton County Planning Board, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.
"I've had communication with each one," Swatt said.
He said the city has great natural resources and ways to sell them to create revenue to feed the tax base.
He and his wife, Raquel, have two children, Alexis and Skylar.
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.