Newly-elected Councilmember Allison Virus stands with incoming Mayor Michael Dixon during a borough meeting held the day after their Nov. 2 victories. Both will assume their seats in the new year.
“I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve. I've wanted to do something that mattered, that directly does something for others.” —Michael Dixon
By Dianne Stuckman
The 2021 election opened the doorway for two Coraopolis newcomers to take office in a town where many elected officials are lifelong residents.
Democrat Michael Dixon beat out Republican candidate Rob Cardimen for the mayoral post by 19%, while Allison Virus won the council seat in Ward 4. She had knocked longtime incumbent Danny LaRocco out of the running in the May primary.
Cardimen, currently serving as vice president of the borough's council, has been a Republican since changing his party affiliation in 2015.
Dixon said he is eager to begin his mayoral role in January.
“I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve. I've wanted to do something that mattered, that directly does something for others,” he said.
As senior software engineer for Aderant North America, Dixon said he listens to the needs of others, facilitates solutions and gets projects done. He plans to use those same skills as he works with borough officials and the community.
“I don't want to be a disruptive factor in anything they have going on. I want to be a facilitator for them,” he said of the borough's council.
Dixon said he aims to engage the community with a more active social media presence and orchestrate community social events. He also said he hopes to provide upcoming council meeting agendas online to encourage community involvement. His $200 monthly mayoral stipend will be donated back to the community.
Dixon and his wife, Heather, moved to Coraopolis in 2015 after house hunting in neighboring towns. The close proximity to Interstate-79 and downtown Pittsburgh was a draw, but the friendliness of neighbors and the town's revitalization clinched the deal. He cites the proposed plans for Coraopolis’s portion of the Ohio River Water Trail, the Montour Junction Sports Complex and the Riverfront Park development as positive growth for the borough. He wants to be an active part of it.
“I want to make this a destination for people. Coraopolis is going through such a renaissance, I want to shout it from the rooftops,” he said.
Virus, a Democrat, will take her seat on the otherwise all-male council in January. She and her husband, Chad, moved to Coraopolis eight years ago. She has been involved with the local food pantry and Meals on Wheels and she wants to do more in the community including helping to attract visitors to the town's businesses.
“We have such a gem of a community, with it being walkable,” she said.
Virus, 34, challenged and won against incumbent LaRocco, age 92, in May. LaRocco harbors no hard feelings.
“I've had 28 years on council, let some younger people do it,” said LaRocco.
His best advice to her, he said, is to “vote with your heart.”
Virus works from her home office as a national account manager for Clif Bar & Co. The council's incumbents, all Democrats, won the other open seats on the board.
George Mihalyi, a two-year council veteran of Ward 1, ran unopposed.
Rudy Bolea, of Ward 2, with 10 years on council under his belt, had 145 votes to opponent Colleen Deitt's 49.
Three-year incumbent Chad Kraynyk, of Ward 3, narrowly beat out Danielle Burnette, with votes cast at 158 to 134.
All will serve four-year terms.
Jason Shazer ran unopposed to garner a two-year term. He was appointed to council in July to fill Councilwoman Lucinda Wade's vacancy.
Despite losing his mayoral bid, Councilman Cardimen, of Ward 4, will remain active in the borough.
He is midway through a four-year council term. Cardimen was unavailable for comment for this story.