With just one quirky campaign sign and a trail of word-of-mouth support, the borough’s new mayor-elect won his first political position.

“I had just been talking to a few people in town, and I always liked politics,” Russ Ebersole said. “I thought I could win.”

Ebersole, a 27-year-old meter technician, ran uncontested in the general election after beating incumbent James Scurfield in the primaries.

His bartending job at the borough’s American Legion may have helped, along with his only campaign sign, a collection of 12 plates with Veterans of Foreign Wars paper poppies. Together, they read: “Rusty for Mayor.”

The 2002 University of Pittsburgh of Johnstown graduate said crime has to stop in the borough, and a neighborhood watch group could give the borough’s two full-time officers a head start.

“It seems like everybody’s interested in keeping the town safe,” he said.

“We need an open communication between police and the community.”

Scurfield had been criticized for his policy that police can’t release any information without official approval, even when he’s out of town. The policy dates back to a couple of years ago when some inaccurate statistics were aired, Scurfield said.

“Then, the council and I decided that if the chief wants to release information, it has to be approved by the mayor, the police committee or council – any one of the three,” he said. “In all the years since, (the police chief) has never once brought anything to us (to approve).”

Police Chief Rodger Hutzell said he was not permitted to comment on anything.

Scurfield’s authority will continue until Dec. 31.

Ebersole said a communication block needs to be broken and residents need to be informed and involved.

“If there’s a theft or something, and there’s a description available, people should know,” he said. “When I grew up, kids could stay out until the street lights came on, and you could leave the windows down in your car. Now everything has to be bottled up.”

Though the only Borough Council meeting Ebersole has attended was for a high school class, he was ready with a list of suggestions, like gradually improving the borough’s power system, getting accessible recycling and reviewing borough employee wages.

“These are just things I would like to work with Borough Council on,” he said.

Though much of a mayor’s duties are limited to overseeing police, borough Secretary Kerry Claycomb said code entitles a willing mayor to a few extra possibilities – even performing marriages in some cases. A mayor can vote on council issues when there is a tie, swear in elected officials, preside over reorganization meetings and provide regular input at borough meetings, including executive sessions.

His responsibilities as head of the police department probably will offer the most challenges, Claycomb said.

“Anytime you have an entity dealing with public concerns, there will be issues,” he said.

His involvement in borough politics depends on his initiative, Claycomb added. “It can be as little or as much as you want to put into it,” he said.

Ebersole said he wants to be an active and accessible mayor with regular hours and even an e-mail address for comments, questions and suggestions. “If there is something that can be taken care of, I will look into it,” he said.

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