Monday, May 16, 2011

Democratic County Controller Candidates

There are three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the Allegheny County Controller Race: George Matta, Valerie McDonald Roberts, and Chelsa Wagner. WDUQ has created profiles of the candidates, listed here in alphabetical order of surname.


Rivers Casino executive George Matta was formerly an Allegheny County Clerk of Courts, and controller and mayor in his hometown of Duquesne. Matta says his experiences make him the best candidate for the Controller position.

"I've been a controller. I've been a chief executive, being the mayor of my hometown [Duquesne]. I've ran county government, being in my own office as an independent clerk of courts, and then working the private sector. And so when you put that type of resume together, I believe I have the best qualifications to work as controller, who is a chief financial watchdog."

Matta says he would take politics out of the Controller office and focus on fiscal responsibility, which is needed in this climate of federal, state, and local budget deficits. He says he's heard about several county financial issues from many different sources.

"If I'm talking to local elected officials, their checks from [?] dollars aren't being paid to their contractors in an efficient time. If it is contracts, I hear that they're not being let out. For procurement, I hear that they don't believe it is transparent, that there's not a process, that people don't know what you can bid on."

Matta says he hopes that the Controller race generates a lot of voter interest.


Valerie McDonald Roberts currently works as the Manager of the County's Department of Real Estate. Prior to that position, Roberts was the County Recorder of Deeds, a Pittsburgh Public School Board member, and a Pittsburgh Councilwoman. In addition, this candidate was previously a chemist in the petroleum industry.

Roberts says she wants to use her 21 years of private and public experience to serve the citizens of Allegheny County. She says she would like to implement more green initiatives in the Controller's office, including paperless receipts.

Roberts says she'd also like to hold quarterly meetings with the County Executive, County Manager, and County Council.

"Oftentimes, you don't know the shortfalls in revenues ... until the time of budgeting starting in September. There needs to be dialogue all year 'round."

The former Councilwoman says she also wants to work closely with the City of Pittsburgh Controller to see if the county and city could save money by merging some services.


State Representative Chelsa Wagner (D-Allegheny) says that she has gotten some tips from her uncle, Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania Auditor General.

"Beyond looking at where dollars and cents are, and that's a very important part of the job, but I think he has really elevated his role in making some sound policy recommendations and I believe that's where I differ from my opponents, and I believe that the role of the controller is to be a watchdog but also to be an advocate."

Wagner says that there are a lot of issues with the government at the local level, and she feels she would have more of an influence in those areas as county controller rather than as a state representative. She also says that she looks forward to cooperating with the city of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth, especially regarding county and city parks.

"There are opportunities there for collaboration and so with the city and the county now finally coming into the same financial management platform where they'll essentially be speaking the same language. That's really going to pave the way for how we can create efficiencies that will also then be passed on to the taxpayers."


The winner of the Democratic primary will face the lone Republican candidate, PPG manager Bob Howard, in the November election.

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