EDWARDSVILLE — Borough Councilman Gary Mack has announced his candidacy for state representative in the 120th Legislative District.
Mack, a 55-year-old Democrat who is employed as an eighth-grade math and pre-algebra teacher at Wyoming Valley West Middle School, made the announcement at Grotto Pizza in Edwardsville on Monday evening.
He began his speech warning his supporters, who packed the standing-room-only meeting room, that every time he went over his speech in advance of the announcement, he cried at the end “because all my life, I just wanted to be a teacher.”
Mack said he was grateful to those who attended the reception. Among his supporters there were Edwardsville Mayor Bernard Dubaskas and his fellow council members, Courtdale Mayor Dorothy Duesler and Councilman Dave Bond, Pringle Councilman Mike Berish, Plymouth Councilman Bill Dixon, Wyoming Valley West Middle School Principal Debbie Troy and state Rep. Jerry Mullery, D-Avoca.
“It speaks volumes on the cross-section of people that we have in front of us. What I want to do, I want to begin an era of cooperation and collaboration. … We cannot have the parochialism that we’re having. We can’t have the ‘I don’t want to work with him because he’s from this town.’ Can’t happen anymore. One thing I have been very good at through my life is getting people together for collaboration purposes. That’s something I’d love to continue,” he said.
Among his other priorities is “restoring education cuts.” Mack said Luzerne County schools have seen $16 million in cuts. “How can we educate and keep our young here with that?” He said his school district saw $2.6 million in cuts since 2010, and he has seen first-hand the effects.
For 15 years, he and a friend ran programs for at-risk children that “won awards all over the state” and saved school districts money — $15,000 per student — by eliminating the need to send those students to an alternative learning center. But those programs were cut four years ago, Mack said.
Mack said he will work to find alternative sources of revenue for schools. He says taxpayers need property tax relief, but he doesn’t support the current form of Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate school property taxes. He said he would support a “hybrid bill” that keeps a portion of property taxes in place.
Mack also said he wants to work with others to find ways to bring “sustainable jobs … that pay a living wage” to the area. And he feels he has the energy and passion to be an effective state legislator. “I’ve always been a hard worker for the people,” he said. “I know there are a lot of things that can be done in this district to move it forward.”
Mack also pledged to defer his retirement from teaching if elected to the legislature. “I won’t be double-dipping,” he said.
Mack thanked state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, whose seat he hopes to fill when her term ends next January, calling her “an outstanding state representative. … I think she’s been so good for this area and I’d like to continue that.”
Mundy said in December she would not run for re-election after finishing her 12th two-year term because she wanted to spend more time with her family.
A graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School and Wilkes University, Mack credited his parents, Len and Joanie, for his “great work ethic,” noting they still work 40-hour weeks. “I take that work ethic and that drive to what I want to do next.”
Mack was the first to announce his candidacy for the 120th district. Others who have said they are considering runs include Republicans Joe Butkiewicz, Norm Gavlick, Tim McGinley and Aaron Kaufer, and Democrats Eileen Cipriani, Laura Dennis, John Bolin and Cassandra Coleman-Corcoran.