Mar. 3—Laura Huchel is looking to become the first millennial elected to Johnstown City Council.
At age 33, Huchel, a Moxham resident, is a 2010 Princeton University graduate and Cambria Regional Chamber's John B. Gunter Community Leadership Initiative alumna.
If elected, Huchel, a Democrat, said she would "represent all of my constituents," but also "offer a bit of a different perspective" as part of a younger generation that is not currently represented on council.
"I think there's definitely a demographic and a voice there that isn't heard very often," Huchel said.
Huchel was born in the city, moved away and then returned as an adult in 2012, so she has no firsthand memories of a once-thriving steel town, an identity that still permeates much of Johnstown's thinking, even though the mills closed decades ago, she said.
"I think my perspective is different," Huchel said. "I see opportunities to build things, not holes where things once were."
She is an active participant in Vision Together 2025 capture teams that are engaged in the central business district, while also serving on the Johnstown Planning Commission and Gallery on Gazebo board. Huchel has been a local, regional and state leader with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which has a mission to promote personal and social development.
"I want to continue to find ways to give more, be more of service," Huchel said. "I'm really inspired by the people and businesses of Johnstown. It's not the easiest place to make a go of things. For everyone who is here and really making the best of it, I want to help be a voice for them. I want to be a good representative and listener for them and bring what they want to see into city government. I just really believe in the spirit of this community."
Huchel said the city's major issues, such as blight and employment, are interconnected like a "web" where, "if you tug on one string, everything else is pulled."
"I really think it's a grassroots attitude that either needs to be reinforced or in some cases enhanced or it's got to be changed in that many Johnstowners have a habit of kind of putting Johnstown down," Huchel said.
"We don't need any detractors because we're good at it enough ourselves, unfortunately, sometimes. I think if we kind of flipped the script and changed our narrative — that it is a great place to live, there are great people here doing great things, there is something to do every night of the week if you want to go out and do it — if we change that narrative and we really own our city, then other things will grow."