Dunmore Council, School Board Candidates Discuss Priorities

May 16, 2019 GMT

DUNMORE — Borough voters heading to the polls Tuesday will cast ballots in contested Dunmore School Board and borough council races.

Dunmore council

A slate of five Democratic candidates, including four incumbents and one newcomer, are battling for four nominations for four-year borough council seats. That means all but one candidate will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. There are no Republican candidates.

The incumbents include council President Michael A. Dempsey and councilmen Vince Amico, Michael Hayes and Michael F. McHale. Longtime Dunmore Planning Commission member Beth McDonald Zangardi, the challenger, seeks a council seat for the first time.


Several incumbents noted council hasn’t raised borough property taxes since 2010, when the specter of bankruptcy and potential state intervention hung high over Dunmore. Dempsey — who joined council in January 2014, the same year council approved a 2015 budget that cut taxes in Dunmore by 10 mills — said he hopes to “continue the fiscal responsibility” that aided in Dunmore’s financial recovery.

Dempsey also touted the borough’s recent investments in its police, fire and department of public works infrastructure, as well as amenities such as Schautz Memorial Stadium. He is opposed to Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s proposed expansion, which remains under review by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

McHale, a certified public accountant who helped oversee the borough’s financial comeback, attributed that comeback to a restored “accountability,” noting any expense over $100 must now be approved by a member of council. As Dunmore’s remaining debt continues to mature and fall off, McHale said he hopes to expand the borough’s paving program and vowed to continue passing balanced budgets “for the foreseeable future.”

Hayes said he hopes to continue expanding existing programs, such as the paving program, arguing residents will see the fruits of that initiative more and more in the coming years. Officials should be proactive in terms of paving, not reactive, and work to bring new businesses to the community, he said.

“We want to continue to do things to spruce our town up and draw living-wage-paying jobs to Dunmore,” Hayes said.

Along with continued fiscal responsibility, one of Amico’s goals is to revitalize the borough’s downtown by securing more state and federal grants. Amico, a board member with the anti-landfill-expansion group Friends of Lackawanna, also wants to continue the hometown heroes banner program and touted his strong working relationship with other officials.


The race’s lone newcomer, Zangardi, called for more transparency in local government and said she hopes to crack down on blight and absentee landlords. She said she also opposes the landfill’s proposed expansion and would work to create a community-based business group to help small businesses in the borough. Ideally, Zangardi said the group would meet the Monday after council meetings, giving officials and borough business owners an opportunity to network.

Council members earn an annual salary of $3,000.

Dunmore School Board

In the school board race, seven candidates are vying for five Democratic nominations to move on to the general election. Of those seven candidates, five also seek five Republican nominations. Those five candidates will advance to the Nov. 5 ballot.

The incumbent candidates include current board President James C. McHale Jr, Joe Muracco, Robert Holtham and Francis X. Kranick Jr. Also running are Jessica Libassi, John Mandarano and former longtime borough councilman Paul Nardozzi.

Muracco, McHale, Holtham, Libassi and Kranick seek both Democrat and Republican nominations.

Muracco identified school safety as his top priority, noting the district received a $25,000 state grant last year for security improvements at the elementary and high schools and collaborated with the borough to have two uniformed police officers assigned to the district.

Dunmore expanded the number of Advanced Placement courses and students’ SAT scores have climbed in recent years, Muracco said, adding he will urge the state to improve its fair funding formula and continue to push for more financial support.

Securing more state funding is also one of McHale’s goals. The incumbent director, who touted recent curriculum upgrades at the district, also wants to see meaningful pension relief from the state.

“I’d like both sides to get together and do something that’s real,” McHale said. “We have to do what’s best for the children.”

Both Holtham and Kranick said their goals are to continue helping the district advance academically and curriculum-wise. The two directors said schedule changes these past few years allowed for expanded elective and Advanced Placement course offerings.

Libassi, a teacher in the Pocono Mountain School District and mother of a Dunmore student, argued her job experience gives her valuable perspective on what students and teachers need in the classroom. Libassi said she wants to make sure the district is using the right hiring policies to attract the most qualified teachers.

Mandarano, who served on the school board in the 1990s, and has three children in the district now, said if elected, he will push for meaningful property tax reform and encourage state legislators to do so. Mandarano also identified school safety as a priority, and argued he would work to make the board more open and provide more opportunities for parents to interact directly with the board and administration.

A former six-term borough councilman, Nardozzi said if elected to the school board, he will push the state to alter its fair funding formula. Changes that assure the district receives its fair share of state revenues would help the district avert future property tax hikes, Nardozzi said.

He said he would call a meeting with local state lawmakers to discuss the fair funding formula, how it works and how to change it to benefit the district.

As a sheriff’s deputy, Nardozzi’s social media posts caused controversy on several occasions several years ago. Among the posts, one was a meme of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt altered to include a flat-screen television under the black, multiple gold medalist’s arm mid-race.

Nardozzi said he meant no harm by the posts and has learned from his mistakes. He said he is careful not to post anything insensitive, even inadvertently so, and realizes that a joke to some may be offensive to others. Public officials have to be aware of that, he said.

“People make mistakes, but you have to learn from those mistakes,” Nardozzi said.

School directors do not receive a salary and serve four-year terms.

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Vince Amico

Party: Democratic

Age: 46

Family: Wife, Celia; children, Celia, Grace and Olivia

Education: Dunmore High School; bachelor’s degree, exercise physiology, Penn State University; teaching certification, Millersville University

Experience: West Scranton Intermediate School industrial arts/technology education teacher; Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Friends of Lackawanna; Dunmore Missy League, executive board member and coach; Scranton Federation of Teachers; Dunmore Borough Council, 2016-present


Michael Hayes

Party: Democratic

Age: 39

Family: Wife, Virginia Capo Hayes; daughter, Bella

Education: Bachelor’s degree, political science, 2002, Penn State University

Experience: Owner of Nardozzi’s Pizza; key account manager for Southern Wine and Spirits; Dunmore Borough Council 2012-14, 2018-present; six years on Dunmore Zoning Hearing Board; past president of Dunmore Lions Club


Michael A. Dempsey

Party: Democratic

Age: 37

Family: Wife, Caressa; children, Luke and Michael Jr.

Education: Dunmore High School; bachelor’s degree, political science, University of Pittsburgh; law degree, Widener University School of Law

Experience: Dunmore Borough Council, 2014-present; Scranton Sewer Authority Board; State auditor general’s office auditor, 2005-07

Michael McHale

Party: Democratic

Age: 49

Family: Wife, Kimberly; children, Gavin, Evan and Riley

Education: Dunmore High School; bachelor’s degree, accounting, University of Scranton; Certified Public Accountant

Experience: Dunmore Borough Council, 2009-present; former council vice president and president


Beth McDonald Zangardi

Party: Democratic

Age: 56

Family: Husband, Anthony “Ritter” Zangardi

Education: Dunmore High School; associate degree, paralegal/legal assistant, Luzerne County Community College

Experience: Dunmore Planning Commission

Joe Muracco

Party: Democrat/Republican

Age: 68

Family: Wife, Jean; daughter, Giana

Education: Associate degree, business management, 1971, Lackawanna College; bachelor of science, accounting, 1974, University of Scranton

Experience: Dunmore School Board, 2003-present; former school board president; president of the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit 19 board of directors; head statistician for the Dunmore football team; retired auditing supervisor, state auditor general’s office


James C. McHale Jr.

Party: Democrat/Republican

Age: 54

Family: Wife, Karen; sons, Jimmy and William

Education: Bachelor’s degree, accounting, 1987, University of Scranton

Experience: Dunmore Borough Council, 1991-95; Dunmore School Board, 2000-present, president


Robert Holtham

Party: Democratic/Republican

Age: 77

Family: Wife, Christina

Education: Bachelor’s degree, 1963, master’s degree, secondary education, 1972, University of Scranton; master’s degree, Spanish, 1980, Bucknell University

Experience: Retired Dunmore teacher; Dunmore School Board, 2003-present

Jessica Libassi

Party: Democrat/Republican

Age: 45

Family: Husband, James M. Dougher Jr.; son, Ty

Education: Associate degree, physical therapy assistant, Keystone College; bachelor’s degree, elementary education, 2001, Keystone College; master’s degree, classroom technology, Wilkes University

Experience: Teacher for 13 years, Pocono Mountain School District


Paul Nardozzi

Party: Democrat

Age: 61

Family: Son, Christopher Nardozzi

Education: Dunmore High School; associate degree in criminal justice, Lackawanna Junior College; Pennsylvania Municipal Police Training Academy; Pennsylvania State Deputy Sheriff Training Academy; attended Penn State University and the University of Scranton

Experience: Former six-term Dunmore Borough Councilman

Francis X. Kranick Jr.

Party: Democrat/Republican

Age: 58

Family: Wife, Donna; children, Stephen, Michael, Alex and Rachel

Education: Bishop O’Hara High School, 1979; Johnson College, associate degree, specialized technology (mechanical drafting), 1983

Experience: Dunmore School Board, December 2015-present; Dunmore Neighborhood Watch, member


John Mandarano

Party: Democrat

Age: 54

Family: Wife, Rita; children, P.J., John, Mia, Bella, Joey, and Sophia

Education: Dunmore High School; associate degree, architectural engineering technology, 1986, Penn State University; bachelor’s degree in engineering, civil engineering, 1990, Temple University

Experience: Dunmore School Board, 1996-2000; professional engineer with KBA Engineering