by Taylor Lightman and Jordi Comas
Another day, another interview with one of the four Democrats running for Union County Commissioner. Ultimately, two candidates will be selected during the May 21st primary to move into the general election. Until then, we here at BarnstormingPA are excited to be covering the race, giving folks a more in-depth look at all the candidates.
We (Taylor and Jordi) emailed a list of questions to each candidate and we are publishing them one day at a time. We first published the interview with Luis Medina, next with Heidi Ruckno, and now with Trey Casimir. Trey lives in Lewisburg where he practices Acupuncture and works as an Exercise Therapist. Trey is no stranger to running for office, having served two terms on Lewisburg Borough Council. Trey also ran for State Senate in 2008 and State House in 2010. Please enjoy the interview we did below:
BarnstormingPA (BPA): What inspired you to run for county commissioner?
Trey Casimir (TC): I really enjoyed training (Center for Progressive Leadership, 2007) for political office and serving two terms on Lewisburg Borough Council, but I retired from Borough Council in 2013 (and resigned all my volunteer positions in 2015) when my wife, Amy, decided to start her own business. Because she was gone most nights teaching ballet, someone needed to make meals, wash dishes, and mold the damn children — I was happy to take a turn. I also enjoyed running for state office (2008 for State Senate and 2010 for State House), but I didn’t enjoy having my ass handed to me in both races. At that point, I decided to run for County Commissioner when John Showers retired. That moment has arrived. The boys are older and Amy’s studio is more established now, so I am once again available to spend time in meetings and in learning the county’s business.
BPA: What differentiates you from the other Democratic candidates for commissioner?
TC: Although I have lived the most unconventional life of any of us, I am nevertheless the most experienced elected official of the group, and have a well-documented record of achievement in the public sphere. I also have the longest attachment to this area, but spent much of my time in Lewisburg as an outsider. I am naturally gregarious and interested in people, I enjoy working on difficult problems, and I have an unusual insider/outsider status in the region.
BPA: What will be your top priorities if elected to serve?
TC: Figure out Great Stream Commons; support the General Assistance Office and Housing Authority as more low income people continue to move to the county; support emergency services; continue to refine and advance the work of the Drug Court; find innovative ways of dealing with the opioid epidemic; support the work of the Conservation District, especially in regard to the requirements of the Chesapeake Bay interstate agreements; work to support the efforts of the Trails Authority
BPA: Flooding certainly poses the biggest natural threat to the resiliency of Union County. What do you think can be done to address this threat?
TC: I actually think that it is difficult to predict the future of flooding due to the effects of climate change that are already apparent. No matter what the weather and environment do, safety will be the first concern. Although the county’s and other local emergency services do an excellent job of keeping residents safe, they will need continuing support in their likely-to-expand mission. It also may behoove us to create mutual aid agreements with other local emergency response groups, including other counties. Otherwise, I will focus on the environmental, economic and cultural aspects of the region’s waterways, which deserve appreciation and protection, rather than assuming that the local creeks and river are to be feared and avoided. And I will keep my eyes on the skies.
BPA: Do you think the commissioners should be working to addressing bicycling and pedestrian issues? If so, what can be done at the county level?
TC: Yes, I think bicycling and pedestrian-focused efforts are appropriate and important parts of the county’s mission, especially considering the large Plain Sect populations in the western part of the county. Mostly this would be addressed through the Trails Authority at the county level. This group, supported by the county’s recently increased hotel tax, will act as a conduit for state and federal funds, and will plan, design and implement future expansions of the county’s trails. I expect to serve on this independent body if I am elected.
BPA: In 2018, citizens petitioned the current commissioners to endorse the Fair Districts bill. Two of the three refused stating that they had no validity to comment on issues “beyond the county.” Do you agree that the proper role for county commissioners is to be silent on issues of state and national importance? If there is a role, what is it?
TC: While I am certainly sympathetic to (what’s a stronger term? Advocate for? Angry on behalf of?) the aims of the Fair Districts effort, I also am leery of symbolic action by local politicians. I believe, in fact, that the fetishization of symbols is at the root of Western, rational civilization’s self-destructive veer away from nature. I strongly agree with the conclusions of the philosopher David Abrams in this regard. However, I don’t think that symbolic action is pointless, and the larger the crowd is, the more important it is that the person on stage be aware of his or her words and gestures. Still, considering the immediate needs of the county’s residents and the demands on the attention of the Commissioners, I think it is reasonable that Commissioners be free to choose which symbolic acts to focus on, both in recognition of their own limits of time and energy, and also to avoid becoming distracted from the immediate demands of the job.
BPA: How is your campaign going so far? What are you doing to get out your message?
TC: My campaign is going fine, but I’m averaging only about a dozen signatures per hour of canvassing, which means I’ve got about ten more hours of walking around the blustery streets of Union County ahead of me in the next two weeks. Mostly I am talking to the people I know and preparing a social media campaign to reach out to people I don’t know, especially younger people.
BPA: What do you think about raising and spending money for a county commissioner race?
TC: I would hope (and am going to attempt to prove) that word of mouth, social and other media presence, and a history of respectful, constructive and forward-looking public service will be sufficient to win a local race.
BPA: Two candidates will be selected by Democratic voters from the primary to run in the general. Assuming you are one of the two, what will be your approach in the general? Democrats would like to see two commissioners. How do you plan to win?
TC: I like and respect all three of my Democratic opponents, but I think it is a fantasy to expect that two of us might be elected. I will absolutely not disparage or publicly criticize any of the Democrats in the race, and will be satisfied with the voters’ decision. I intend to continue to serve the public interest as I have for the last 15 years, although at the moment that will mostly consist of campaigning for the office and co-producing (with RiverStage) our second annual Lewisburg Victorian Nutcracker next December. I already have relationships with many local people, including members of other parties, so I intend to seek the endorsements of various people, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, with whom I have worked in the past.
BPA: Turn-out is always lower in municipal/county elections. It is also lower among younger and poorer voters. How will these factors affect your campaign?
TC: As a poor person with youthful interests and appetites, these are my natural constituency — it has been harder for me to button up and act my age, in general. However, nothing is more pathetic and off-putting than an old dude trying to act hip. My hope is that my son, who is managing my social media effort, will be helpful in attracting young people to my campaign. As for poor people, subsidized housing around here tends to contain Democrats, and I am currently reaching out in person to these residents through my petition-signing efforts.
Thanks for reading our interview with Trey. His social media presence is still being developed, so be on the look for ways to further connect with Trey online.
We have one more interview to publish, our interview with Stacy Richards, be on the lookout for that soon.