Four candidates competing for three Berks County commissioner spots touted their qualifications for a position on the board and outlined their top priorities for the future Thursday evening during a Berks County Patriots forum.

Incumbent Commissioners Christian Y. Leinbach and Kevin S. Barnhardt focused on their experience and accomplishments in office, while challengers Michael Rivera and Donna Reed highlighted what they could bring to the table.

In elections for county commissioner, voters choose two candidates, but the top three vote-getters take office. Commissioners serve four-year terms and have annual salaries of $90,260.

The candidates weighed in on issues from economic development to infrastructure concerns during the roughly hourlong forum at the Leesport Farmers Market. The event gave those in attendance an opportunity to get acquainted with the candidates — particularly the newcomers — and ask questions that focused on their goals for the next four years.

Barnhardt, who is also seeking a fourth term, said he believes he has done his best to balance those needs with the cost to taxpayers. Among those are cutting the number of bridges in county hands by transferring them to municipalities after restoration; keeping Berks Heim, the county-owned nursing home, under local control; and attracting businesses to the county.

“I have the compassion and passion to continue to be your Berks County commissioner,” the 60-year-old said. “The things I have been able to achieve over the last 12 years have saved the county millions of dollars. And I truly believe experience matters.”

Barnhardt also said he has been working hard to attract new business.

He noted his involvement in the discussions that led to the decision by a bottle recycling company to open $80 million facility in Muhlenberg Township. CarbonLITE, which recycles used plastic bottles into material that can be used to make new ones, will open the 270,000-square-foot processing facility that will employ more than 100 people by early 2020.

“We continue to progress mightily on this issue,” he said. “As a county commissioner, I’m often asked to meet and facilitate site selectors coming from other states and other countries. I was proud to be involved in these projects.”

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