By Jamie Wiggan
In the election cycle marking his 20-year tenure, McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr faces three primary challengers in the race for the Democratic nomination.
While the incumbent is a lifelong McKees Rocks resident with more than 40 years in local politics, all the challengers are transplants to the town and political newcomers. Each say they want to bring change to the struggling town and offer different visions for how to do so.
Two years after launching Love Rocks Cafe, her soul food eatery located inside the Father Ryan Arts Center, chef Jackie Page said she’s running for mayor to lift up the community she now lives and works in.
She believes the borough’s current slate of leaders doesn’t adequately represent the town’s diverse population and wants to use the office of the mayor to usher in new perspectives.
“I want to change the perception of how people feel about McKees Rocks,” she said. “And I think that starts with the face of the community…I came here because I want to bring something here that wasn’t here.”
As mayor and overseer of the police department, Page said she would push to obtain officer body cameras in an attempt to build trust and accountability on all sides.
Page emphasized her commitment to being approachable and available to residents and advocating for all who come to her with concerns.
“I just want to bring more love and understanding,” she said.
A political first-timer, Page said she wants resident needs to steer her policy goals.
“I want to know what the community wants us to do, then I will do my best to execute that faithfully,” she said. “It’s time to turn the page.”
Having arrived in McKees Rocks about 10 years ago as a first-time homebuyer, David Flick hopes to use the tools of the mayor’s office to help others buy into the community.
Flick said he’s tired of what he perceives as low-expectation thinking lowering the horizons of the community and wants to get creative about moving forward.
“They talk about the good old days — I want the good days now,” he said.
A former stagehand now retraining as a welder, Flick said his background in the performing arts taught him always to ask, “What if we do it like this? What if we try that?”
By posing these questions with help from other residents, Flick believes the struggling town can begin to reimagine itself as a flourishing, welcoming community that’s able to draw in interest from new residents and business owners.
After falling short during a run for council in 2019, Flick said he’s now seeking the Mayor’s seat more for its power to shape the culture of the community than the limited formal powers vested in the office.
He said he’s seen a lot of positive energy arise from simple encounters with neighbors — taking trash out, shoveling snowy drives — and wants to set a similar tone from the top down.
Flick also said he wants to create a more welcoming environment at public meetings, citing conversations with residents who expressed negative experiences when they’ve attempted to address their concerns to council.
“That incivility – that ends here,” he said. “Nobody’s going to be saying ‘I’m afraid of the mayor.’”
Before announcing his bid for the seat of McKees Rocks Mayor, Tristan Yoder had initially set his sights on Pennsylvania’s 27th House District, where he sought to challenge incumbent Dan Deasy on the Republican ticket in 2022.
Encouraged by friends and neighbors, Yoder ultimately abandoned that race, deciding he could do immediate good for his community by holding a local office.
“Other towns, yes, they have troubles — but not nearly as bad as the Rocks does,” Yoder said. “I wanted to help my community out.”
Turned off by the events of the 2020 presidential election, Yoder no longer identifies as a Republican but sees himself as an independent seeking the Democratic nomination as the surest path to winning in November.
“I want people to say, Tristan’s not a Democrat, he’s not a Republican, Tristan’s Tristan – he’s about the community.”
As McKees Rocks mayor, Yoder said he’d fight to get better resources to the police department and work to clean up the borough’s large cache of blighted housing.
“We need to lower the crime rate,” he said. “Nobody’s going to want to come to McKees Rocks to open a business up until we get the crime down.”
A father of three in the Sto-Rox school system, Yoder said he’d also seek to collaborate with the school district to find common solutions for the entire community.
Muhr declined to comment for this story, saying the community already had a clear grasp of his priorities. Residents will vote for primary candidates on May 18, and later elect their preferred candidate to office in November. No candidates filed for the Republican nomination.