A Republican challenger has stepped forward with plans to run against Amherst auditor David Kukucka in 2017.
Derek Pittak, a graduate of Amherst Steele High School and former member of the U.S. Air Force, will seek the office in charge of city budgets, payroll, and other expenditures.
Watching the national primary races unfold last spring, he was struck by the chaos that led to Donald Trump’s nomination for president. “I grew up in a Democratic household, watching the Dukakis-Bush election in the late 80s. But ever since then I can’t remember a time when we had so many disparities between Republican candidates heading into the general election,” Pittak said, describing the pull to get involved in politics. “I thought to myself, there is something more I want to give back.”
So he reached out to Amherst councilman Phil Van Treuren for information how to run for local government. They sat down over coffee and talked about options — at first, Pittak said he considered a council bid.
After about two months of thought, he decided to challenge Kukucka for auditor. “It seems like he’s done a fine job. He’s been involved the last 20 years. I have an uphill battle,” Pittak said.
He has experience. After graduating from Steele, Pittak enlisted in the Air Force and was promoted to senior airman in the financial management office at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
After four years in uniform, he returned to Amherst and earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Cleveland State University. He later received a master of accountancy degree to support his position as a financial analyst at the U.S. Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
Today, Pittak works for Talent Launch as a project manager, providing support to staffing and recruitment companies.
Kukucka has served in the part-time auditor’s position since 2005. He said he is considering running for reelection but has not made a firm decision.
He declined to comment on the prospect of a contested race.
Kukucka ran for mayor in 2015 and lost to Mark Costilow in a wide 61 to 39 percent decision.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.