Ed Pawlowski, who recently announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania governor in the 2014 election, stopped by Towanda Sunday as part of a campaign kickoff tour.

Pawlowski met with members of the Bradford County Democratic Party at the Weigh Station Café for a half-hour discussion during the nine-day, 23-county tour around the state. During the trip, Pawlowski said he is looking to touch base with Pennsylvanians, listen to their concerns and answer questions regarding his candidacy.

Pawlowski, who announced his intention to seek the nomination last week, said he is capable of spurring growth and economic prosperity statewide following success during his nearly eight years leading Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-largest city.

During Pawlowski's tenure, Allentown became the state's fastest-growing city, he said. Pawlowski has reduced the city's overall debt by 35 percent and developed a public-private partnership model in order to fully fund the city's pension obligations, he said. In addition, property taxes in Allentown will not increase in 2014 - the ninth year in a row without a tax hike, he said.

Pawlowski believes his record in Allentown shows he can make positive changes statewide. "I decided to jump in because I believe our state is going in an entirely wrong direction," he said. "We have a track record of success, and I'm hoping to bring that track record to Harrisburg."

Pawlowski's top priorities, he said Sunday, are to increase recently slashed education funds, create jobs and ensure oversight and regulation of the natural gas industry.

School districts and colleges statewide have cut positions and programs as a result of reduced education spending in recent years, Pawlowski said. In addition, Pennsylvania suffers what Pawlowski called a "massive brain drain" of educated Pennsylvanians leaving the state, due to a lack of jobs.

Pawlowski then noted that prison spending is up from $80 million in 1990 to $1.75 billion in 2013, and implied that a lack of education funding will cause prison spending to rise further as the effects of a lack of investment in the educational system trickle down to children.

Without that investment, "we're just going to be building more prisons in the future," Pawlowski said. "I'd rather have our guys building schools than prisons any day of the week."

Pawlowski also wants to develop a strategy to increase job growth in Pennsylvania beyond the growth led by the Marcellus Shale. As natural gas continues to grow in the state, Pawlowski wants to ensure that the state has enough oversight, regulation and personnel to mitigate or eliminate the impacts caused by the industry.

Pawlowski suggested that the state would be better off with a severance tax system similar to West Virginia's instead of the current impact fee levy.

The increased regulation would not push natural gas companies away from Pennsylvania, Pawlowski said. "We have the largest deposit of gas in the world," he said. "They're still going to be here."

Sunday's visit was not Pawlowski's first to Bradford County. He spoke at the county Democrats' annual dinner in 2012 in support of President Barack Obama, who was seeking re-election at the time.

Pawlowski holds a Master's degree in urban planning and public policy from the University of Illinois and served as executive director of a non-profit subsidiary of the Chicago Housing Authority and, later, the Lehigh Housing Development Corporation, according to information provided by his campaign.

He then worked as Allentown's director of community and economic development before being elected to the mayoral post in 2005. Pawlowski lives in Allentown with his wife Lisa and their two children.

In addition to Pawlowski, several other Democrats have announced their intentions to seek the nomination, including U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former state Department of Environmental Protection secretaries Katie McGinty and John Hanger, former state Secretary of Revenue Tom Wolf.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.