SUNBURY -- U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta walked the streets of Sunbury on Thursday, ducked into a restaurant and ordered two slices of plain pizza, and then listened to the mayor discuss how he wants to seize a public housing complex.
Should Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton, win re-election this fall, he would represent Sunbury in his district. The city, the lower half of Northumberland County and Montour County are represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-10, of Cogan Station. Those areas will be moved to the 11th Congressional District in 2012.
"This," Barletta said, "is a great city. There is so many nice old structures here."
Among those structures that are a hot topic is Memorial Acres, the 103-unit low-income housing development that Mayor David Persing wants the city to take over.
"I just wanted to share my thoughts with the congressman on some issues we have in the city," Persing said after Barletta left the mayor's office.
"To me it shows he cares about the city and it shows he has interest. He was a mayor and we relate to each other and he understands issues."
Persing told Barletta he wants Sunbury to take control of Memorial Acres.
"I just wanted to let him know my feelings," Persing said. "I am hoping he will look at these issues and at least hear what I am saying."
Persing wants to convert the housing complex into a senior living center.
Barletta listened to the mayor's concerns and said he would be open to learning more about Persing's plans. Tearing down blighted property can also be a positive, Barletta said.
"When I was mayor of Hazleton we looked at several different plans of how we could improve the city," Barletta said. "Everything takes time. But we were able to tear down nearly three blocks of blighted properties and build energy-efficient houses for families that wanted to buy new homes."
Persing and Barletta talked for about 45 minutes before Barletta spoke to a packed Sunbury Rotary Club at the Hotel Edison.
"I am thrilled to be here with you all tonight," Barletta told the crowd. "I plan on being around this area a lot. I am open to listening to each and every one of you and my door is always open."
Barletta, who owned a small business before entering politics, is known for his stand on illegal immigration and for trying to make Hazleton "the toughest place on illegal immigrants in America."
Barletta thinks his previous roles as mayor and small-businessman make him attuned to many of the issues in the Central Susquehanna Valley.
"I understand working with local officials," he said. "I understand how important that is.After being here today and walking around, I feel very welcome and look forward to meeting many new friends."
The Northumberland County Republican Committee voted unanimously to endorse Barletta, Marino and state Reps. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, Sunbury, and Kurt Masser, R-107, Elysburg, in the fall.