For the first time since 2015, Schuylkill County voters will see a third-party candidate on their General Election ballot for County Commissioner.
Gregory Woll, of Schuylkill Haven, is running this year as a Libertarian candidate.
Woll is hoping a frustration with the status quo in County government will lead voters to pick him as 1 of their 2 choices on November 7th.
“From speaking with many people across the county I feel as though most people are upset with the options that they are being given from both sides of the political spectrum and are looking for commonsense government leadership that is concerned with providing an efficiently run government that allows people to live their lives,” Woll recently told The Canary.
As for voters potentially being skeptical of voting for a Libertarian candidate or anyone from a third party, like the common belief that a vote for a third-party candidate is tantamount to throwing your vote away, Woll adds, “If that (change) is something that you feel is what we need in our county then there is no reason why a Libertarian such as myself could not win.”
Woll speaks at length on the issues he believes are most important to Schuylkill County and what he’d like to do as Commissioner.
“My main drive for running is that I believe that Schuylkill County needs a voice that is concerned with fiscal responsibility, someone that cares about personal liberties, and ensuring that the smallest minority (the individual) is at the forefront of every decision that is being made,” Woll says.
Woll’s 4 Main Points of Emphasis in His Bid for Schuylkill County Commissioner
There are 4 main issues Woll is focusing his campaign on and he says he’s picked those issues based on personal beliefs and what he’s learned from listening to residents ahead of his run for the Courthouse:
- Real estate taxes and fiscal responsibility using them
- A lack of high-paying jobs in Schuylkill County
- An influx of drug-related issues
- Transparency and accessibility in local government.
He believes the County’s biggest challenge right now is the government’s debt and looming budget deficits. These are issues the sitting Commissioners say don’t really exist.
However, the County has openly admitted that prior to passing the spending plan for 2023, it was faced with a nearly $10 million shortfall and filled that gap with remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan Act relief money it received from the federal government.
This has been a point Woll has mentioned numerous times. To The Canary, Woll explains how he believes he can help reduce the tax burden, be more accountable with the money the County government receives, and why that’s important to him.
“The county is composed of about 40% of citizens 55 and older. These people are or soon will be retired and living on a fixed income,” he says. ” “We need to ensure that the county is living within the means of its constituents. We cannot expect to raise taxes on people and not have dire consequences such as more elderly losing their homes or needing to make a choice between food or paying real estate taxes.”
He believes the County government can and needs to reduce its expenses. To do that, Woll says he’s ready to pick through a budget and find areas where the fat can be trimmed.
“We need to reign in the budget and find ways to reduce costs at the County level. I believe this can be done by looking at our budgets line item by line item, ensuring that we are properly utilizing taxpayer money, no matter if the source is from local property taxes, state dollars or even federal dollars,” he says.
“I do not believe that anyone should ever lose their home over unpaid taxes.”
Woll believes no one should ever be removed from a home they own due to unpaid property taxes. He thinks the County government should investigate ways of collecting tax revenue, too, to grow the tax base locally.
“We need to work on solutions that make it easier for older Schuylkill Countians to pay their taxes. We should work towards finding new ways to collect taxes in this county,” Woll says.
He also says that rent and tax rebate programs should be fully utilized in Schuylkill County and accessible for the elderly and disabled veterans here.
Lack of Good Jobs in Schuylkill County
Woll believes the County should foster the power of the universities located in Schuylkill County to help improve the economy here.
He believes working with schools like Penn State and Alvernia to build business incubator-type programs will help spur the creation of new businesses.
He’d also like to see more “Opportunity Zones” created in Schuylkill County to encourage more businesses to locate here.
These “Opportunity Zones” are often tax-free or reduced-tax areas where businesses can establish themselves without or with a reduced tax burden for a limited time.
He also believes if the County government is more fiscally responsible, property taxes could actually be lowered and that will help improve the business climate here.
The War on Drugs Has Failed, But the County Must Help the Addicted
Woll says the infamous War on Drugs has failed in America. And he believes it’s on the County to provide access to services to help anyone addicted to drugs. He acknowledges that Schuylkill County definitely has a problem with drugs.
“Over the last 20 years we have seen an influx of drug related issues in our County, state and our country as a whole,” Woll says. “I believe in general these are societal problems that are not things that can be legislated away or be fixed via morality legislation.
“As a Libertarian I do not believe that it is moral for a government to dictate which substances a person is permitted to consume, whether it is alcohol, tobacco, herbal remedies, marijuana, etc. These choices belong to the individual people, not the government,” he says.
Prison is not the answer to these problems, is what he’s basically saying. He believes that locking someone up over a drug problem isn’t going to solve the problem and it ends up costing the County, not only in money but in creating career criminals.
He thinks by providing access to rehabilitation services, it’ll not only eliminate the cost burden, it’ll create more productive members of our society.
“Some of the most effective things that we can do is to provide resources to those that are addicted to drugs to help them receive the treatment that they need to change their lives,” Woll says.
Transparency in County Government Severely Lacking
The current County Commissioners are not accessible, Woll believes, and neither is their public forum, at least not to the working person.
Transparency in local government is something Woll has expressed concern about publicly at recent County Commissioners meetings.
His comments have mostly focused on an issue raised quite often by reporting in The Canary. That’s the lack of substantive information in meeting Agendas. These agendas and their lack of details don’t allow the public to ask important questions on what the Commissioners plan to do with the money they collect in tax revenue.
Woll also believes that public meetings should be held at a time more convenient to most Schuylkill County residents. The Commissioners regularly meet on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. in Pottsville.
And at those inconvenient meetings, your chance to interact with the Commissioners is strictly limited and hardly interactive.
“For most working constituents this is a time that is not conducive to being involved in your local government,” Woll says. “I want the County’s citizens to feel as though they can talk with the county commissioners and have an open discussion and have their concerns heard and actioned on. There have been countless times where a person has come up to the commissioners and been told nothing more than ‘Thank you for your comment’”’ once their 180 seconds have expired. This is not being open or transparent with the Taxpayer.”
Who is Gregory Woll?
His name is definitely not synonymous with Schuylkill County politics. So, little is known about Woll and his background.
He says he enlisted to serve with the 365th Engineering Battalion in Schuylkill Haven after graduating from Schuylkill Haven Area High School in 2003 but chose to enter Active Duty service in 2005 and served with the 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas.
Woll deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty in 2005 and 2007. He says his military service is one that follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and aunts and uncles.
He says he made a promise to himself while serving to continue his education and earned an associate’s degree in Information Technology. Woll then returned home where he became a partner in a family-owned renewable energy business.
At the same time, he completed more course work and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Information Technology and Cyber Security.
He currently works with Trimble as a Principal Cyber Security Engineer. Woll’s also spent time volunteering with American Cancer Society and Boy Scouts of America as a Cubmaster and Den Leader of a Cub Scout pack in Port Carbon.
He and his wife, Laura, have been married for 18 years and they have 4 children, ages 7 to 15.
Q&A with Gregory Woll
Here is a question-and-answer period with Woll regarding things like how his Libertarian beliefs would affect the way he’d handle the job as County Commissioner and what he’d do differently.
The Canary: If elected, what would be your first order of business as County Commissioner?
Woll: Provide transparency and accessibility for the county’s citizens. I would work with the other elected Commissioners to change the Agenda, the time of the meetings and the livestream of the Commissioner meetings.
(I want to) improve fiscal responsibility by immediately requesting a review of all budgets for all county agencies to start working on removing and reducing waste.
The Canary: A core principle of libertarianism is minimal government intervention. How does that translate into your plans for Schuylkill County?
Woll: I feel that this will translate well for my plans for Schuylkill county in that I believe that a Smaller more efficiently run government is what the majority of Schuylkill County Taxpayers are looking for.
They are looking for a government that provides them the services they need in a fiscally responsible and quick manner.
These are the primary tenets of what I would like to accomplish as a commissioner as well as providing as much insight, transparency and details to all taxpayers.
The Canary: Libertarians are known for advocating personal freedoms. How will these beliefs shape your decisions?
Woll: At the heart of libertarianism is the belief in the free will of all people and limited government intervention. We believe the largest minority group is the individual and that individual liberties and property rights are the main and primary focus of government especially at a local level.
In every decision that is made, be it authorizing the spending of tax dollars or the creation of ordinances I would look at it from that perspective and ensure that we are spending tax dollars in a responsible manner and not infringing on the personal liberties of all the county’s citizens.
The Canary: What steps would you take to ensure that the voice of every resident is heard and represented equally in the county?
Woll: I think one way to ensure that every voice within the county is heard and represented is by doing what I am doing now, running as a Third option come November. Additionally, I believe that we are truly stronger when we work together. I would also hold open hours where any taxpayer could come and meet with me or schedule a time that I could meet with them to discuss any issues that they are having and see if this is something that can be worked through the Commissioner’s office or if there is a way for me to provide them assistance if needed. Being open and accessible to people on day one through the final day of your elected term is very important.
The Canary: Lastly, what differentiates you from your political opponents and why should residents of our county choose you as their County Commissioner?
Woll: One thing that I feel differentiates me from the other Candidates is my background. While all of the other candidates that we have now or commissioners that we have had for the last 12-15 years have all been business owners.
The experience that shaped me into who I am is my Military service and understanding of what it means to truly sacrifice oneself for a greater good. I believe that experience alone would provide a different view to how we spend the hard earned tax dollars of the citizens of Schuylkill County.
Additionally, I am not a mainstream candidate. Unlike the other candidates, I am coming from outside the mainstream political arena. I am looking to make a meaningful impact on the county to make it a better place for future generations while ensuring that senior citizens, veterans, and those that are impoverished are not forgotten.
(Coal Region Canary photo)