County commissioner candidates ‘meet the press’

Milford. The Pike County Courier held a debate with the candidates on Oct. 23.

| 25 Oct 2023 | 04:03

On October 23, The Pike County Courier sponsored a forum with the four candidates for County commissioner at the American Legion Hall in Milford. The forum took the form of a debate moderated by the Courier’s managing editor, Lisa Reider, and Political Editor Pam Chergotis. The candidates were Christa Caceres, Matthew M. Osterberg, Ronald R. Schmalzle, and R. Anthony Waldron.

Reider set the time constraints, which the candidates all had a hard time meeting: two minutes for an introductory statement and one minute to answer questions thereafter.

The room was packed with about 100 people, all of whom were listening intently. When each candidate spoke, there was polite silence and the audience clapped after each candidate’s response.

“The audience was respectful and paid rapt attention. Overall, I don’t think there were any home runs or strike-outs — just four competent candidates differing in style and perspective,” remarked Milford Mayor Sean Strub.

The editors asked questions involving eight topics: healthcare, transportation, emergency services response time, preserving the quality of life and jobs, the acquifer, affordable housing, and the June Pride Month LGBTQ proclamation.

While the entire forum is available on video (visit the following link to watch it all:, some of the candidates’ answers are highlighted here to show the variation in their responses. In general, Caceres was the “new kid on the block” and her answers were, by circumstance, about looking toward the future and creating new projects. The three incumbent commissioners, on the other hand, by necessity, were in the position of having to defend their past and some of their present positions.

When asked about preserving the quality of life here while expanding local job and housing opportunities, Caceres said, “We need to bring in jobs from outside the county and encourage big companies to create jobs here. We could build collaborative hubs where big companies can deal with our citizens.” Waldron said, “It’s a problem because one of the obstacles was no sewer system.” Schmalzle, with his businesses in the tourism sector, responded, “I’ve spent my entire life creating jobs for more than 1,500 people. We have to be innovative. There’s no better place to work remotely than Pike County. We need to sell this to the big companies.” Osterberg pointed out that “this is more a role for the municipalities, but we can help. No one wants to see more higher paying jobs than I do.”

The commissioners also pointed out that they brought Northwell Health to the county and they will be bringing many more jobs because they are building two wellness centers and a hospital.

On the question of what the candidates plan to do to support the LGBTQ cause, noting that the commissioners did not pass a resolution to support June Pride Month, Waldron remarked, “I advocated for that but there were legal concerns, and it was not the right time to do it.” Schmalzle responded, “I felt that the climate at the time would have created more hatred and unrest, so we tabled it. We will, however, look at it again.” Osterberg echoed that sentiment and said, “The temperature in the room was getting too hot, so we had to table it. I don’t condone hate. We will look at this in the future and we don’t want anyone to feel threatened. Words matter.” Caceres, who had the last word on this question, said, “If I was a commissioner sitting at that table, the proclamation would have been signed already. Every man, woman and child needs to feel safe.”

The audience reaction

There was high energy in the room at the end of the forum. Many people expressed the thought that this was a really good thing. Michael Weinstein, among them, said, “I thought it was very informative. And the commissioners supported all of the things they have done in the last four years. But I’m a Christa person. I thought she was a star. Very innovative. This [type of forum] is what we need in Pike County and I commend everyone who sat at this table.”

Another audience member said, “The commissioners are doing a great job. We don’t need a change. Matt is the organized one. He really gets great things done.”

Amy Ferris said, “I was extraordinarily thrilled that Christa was there on the dais, the one woman with all men, speaking up. We women need to be represented.”

Nancy Pinchot went even further. “It was clear at tonight’s debate that every time Christa spoke, you could feel the audience lean forward in anticipation to hear what she had to say. There is a real hunger for someone willing to look for creative new solutions to old problems. In addition to representing all the people of Pike County, Christa promises to be a voice for those who are often overlooked, especially people of color, the LGBTQ community, and above all, the environment.”

Borough Councilman Joseph Dooley summed up the evening by saying, “I was glad that The Pike County Courier put together this candidate forum so all of us in Pike County had an opportunity to see, hear, and listen to all the candidates’ viewpoint on a multitude of issues. Thank you, Pike County Courier.”