South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

MWCDC introduces board candidates, explains financials


October 3, 2017

Mount Washington residents heard from the ten candidates vying for five board seats in the upcoming Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) board election scheduled to take place this October.

At last week’s community forum, board nominees Darla D’Anna, Alaina Spanoudakis-Davis, Natalie Carl-Gallagher, Josiah Gilliam, Chris Kail, Curtis Krauth, John Norbut, Justin Walbert, and Rebecca Kasavich each gave a short speech about their background and what they’d like to contribute to the organization.

First to speak was Darla D’Anna, a Mount Washington resident for 48 years. Ms. D’Anna has been active in the community and the MWCDC since moving here from Chicago. She currently works as a realtor and has years of experience volunteering for several organizations including Children’s Hospital.

Current MWCDC board treasurer Alaina Spanoudakis-Davis is running for reelection. Raised on Mount Washington, Ms. Spanoudakis-Davis recently purchased her own home in the community. She has several years of experience working within the community, including Neighbors on the Mount, and recently helped to organize the Mount Washington block party to raise money for the MWCDC.

Natalie Carl-Gallagher is a lifelong Mount Washington resident and has successfully planned several community events. Ms. Carl-Gallagher’s goal would be to help community businesses thrive while driving new business into the community. She’d also like to see more families move into the neighborhood.

Josiah Gilliam is originally from Pittsburgh and has been a Mount Washington resident for three years. Active in the nonprofit sector, Mr. Gilliam works in violence prevention for Homewood Children’s Village and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. He believes accessibility is the community’s best quality.

Chris Kail is a current board member running for re-election. He’s currently serving a one-year board term following the departure of a previous member. Originally from Bethel Park, Mr. Kail is now a Mount Washington resident. He works as the Director of Marketing with Legend Financial Advisors, Inc. and is a former adjunct professor at Duquesne University.

Curtis Krauth is a city firefighter and first moved to Mount Washington in 2009. He hopes to help drive new businesses into the community while pushing for green and renewable resource initiatives. Mr. Krauth said his future goal is to open a gym on Mount Washington.

John Norbut has been a Mount Washington resident since 1950 and is the owner of Salon Vibes in Duquesne Heights. He also works as a director of facilities for Highmark. Mr. Norbut is active with the MWCDC’s economic development committee and his goal is to increase tourism throughout the community.

Justin Walbert works as a commercial real estate agent and his goal is to give people a reason to visit Mount Washington by driving new businesses and revitalizing blighted areas. Mr. Walbert said he believes the community’s best days are ahead, and that he is an action-oriented advocate.

The last nominee to speak was Rebecca Kasavich. Ms. Kasavich is a new Mount Washington resident and the current owner of Copies at Carson on the South Side. She is a member of the South Side Chamber of Commerce and has served as a board member for several local nonprofits. Ms. Kasavich believes her ability to “work through collaboration” can help drive growth in Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights.

Board nominee Tara Jerry did not attend the meeting. Ms. Jerry works for the mayor’s office and the Office of Councilman Corey O’Connor. She is interested in economic and business development, keeping low-cost housing available, and bringing new fundraising experience to the board.

Prior to the nominee presentations, board president Michael Grande addressed questions raised at a previous forum regarding funding for the Emerald View Park project and MWCDC employee salaries.

Mr. Grande distributed a report prepared by board secretary Josh Whiteside that clarified details around the “two misunderstandings with regards to the community concern of misappropriation of funds.”

The report stated that the $2.651 million project originally named “Grandview Scenic Byway Park” had its name later changed to “Emerald View Park” in financial reports, which led some residents to believe the project had been abandoned, which was not the case.

In the report, Mr. Whiteside also stated he found “no evidence of a staff director or any other employee being paid an exorbitant amount of money” or that any board member ever received compensation.

It was also stated in the report the MWCDC’s last nine annual audits have been conducted by Terry Collier and Associates, a third-party CPA firm that has presented results with an “unmodified opinion.”

According to Mr. Grande, the board has asked City Controller Michael Lamb to review the organization’s previous audits and financial information to verify accuracy.

“We’re trying to work through this,” Mr. Grande said. “There has been no money stolen. City Controller Lamb is going to review all of our financials going back a number of years.”

The board election will be held at next month’s community forum meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue. Only MWCDC members are eligible to vote. Sign-in will start at 6:30 p.m. and voting will be open from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The results of the election will be revealed after voting has concluded.


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