The news that Democratic state Sen. Rich Kasunic may be leaving Somerset County was a disappointment to those who have worked with him over the years.
The state Legislature released redistricting maps that moved Kasunic's district out of Somerset County.
"Sen. Kasunic has been a tremendous asset to Somerset County government," county Commissioner Jim Marker said. "He has responded and helped every time he has been asked to do so. He is truly a nonpartisan legislator and will be sorely missed in Somerset County."
Marker said he has known Republican state Sen. Kim Ward for a number of years and has spoken with Sen. Donald White. The two pick up parts of Somerset County in the new plan.
"I have found them both to be very engaged and I am sure they will represent their district to their best ability, including Somerset County," he said. "As a commissioner, this position's duty is to work with whomever the state and federal legislators are."
Marker said Kasunic would be missed, a sentiment echoed by Linda Fetterolf, chairwoman for the Somerset County Campus Foundation for Allegany College of Maryland. She said she was upset when she read the news that Kasunic may no longer be representing part of Somerset County.
"He has indeed been a wonderful friend," she said.
Fetterolf said she heard the district lines were being redrawn, but did not think Kasunic would be leaving the county.
"I truly did not think it would happen," she said. "When I saw this first thing in the paper, I was devastated."
Kasunic worked to secure funding to help offset tuition costs at the college. He helped secure $1.5 million in grant funding to help the college build an addition to Founders Hall.
"We would have never been able to do that without his support," she said.
Fetterolf said the foundation board will have to get to know the two new senators and explain to them how much the college's Somerset campus means to the county.
"Hopefully the next person would support us as well," she said.
Dr. James M. Snider, vice president of Pennsylvania campuses for the college, said he hopes the committee reconsiders the plan to move Kasunic out of the county.
"We want to do what we can to influence the committee to make that change," he said.
Along with the college, Snider mentioned Route 219 and the Quemahoning pipeline as other projects Kasunic has worked on.
"The community outcry can help influence this committee," he said. "There is going to be a public comment period. I think it's important they realize what Sen. Kasunic has done."
Along with larger county projects, Kasunic has also worked to help smaller communities secure funding for infrastructure projects. Ursina Borough Council President Bill Nolf said Kasunic helped the borough secure $25,000 for its sewage project.
"I am sad that we are losing him," he said. "I hate the way they draw the lines. It always favors the political party that is in power."
Nolf said that the funding Kasunic secured is helping the small borough save residents money.
"He came down one time and talked to us," he said. "He was very concerned about the waste in Harrisburg, which we all really, really liked about him."
Nolf said new representation could take away smaller municipalities' voices.
"Seems like we are out of everything anyhow," he said. "That will push us further out."
District plan that moves Kasunic out of Somerset draws fire