Meet the Candidate: Tyler Titus
Erie County Executive
Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation
I was born into poverty when my parents were teenagers. My grandfather was the president of the Steelworkers local and my grandmother was a union school teacher. My parents worked incredibly hard just to provide me and my 11 siblings with the bare necessities. Growing up in a rural area, I saw many around me struggle, often with drug addiction. I watched my foster siblings face unimaginable challenges, as my parents tried to meet the needs of kids who had been neglected their whole lives.
My outlook changed completely when I realized I was not alone—that so many others around me were experiencing similar pain. Seeing their pain motivated me. It made me unafraid to stand up, to take the heat, to fight for a better future. These are lessons I carried with me into adulthood. They are lessons that only deepened when I married Shraddha Prabhu, an Assistant Professor at Edinboro University, and became the parent of two phenomenal children. I want to be a part of creating a future that is safe for my children, and yours.
Over the past 15 years, through my work at the Erie County Office of Children and Youth, as a full-time therapist for youth in the foster system, and as the president of the Erie School Board, I developed a nuanced understanding of how intergenerational poverty, neglect, abuse, and violence impacts families and communities. As a therapist in a residential facility, I worked every day with young men who the system had tossed aside—who had no one in their corners. That’s why I became an advocate at the state level for ensuring these kids had someone to lean on. Working as a mental health professional, and specifically with those experiencing suicidality, has exposed me to how severely broken our healthcare system is. I believe deeply in quality healthcare for all, an economy that puts working families first, and an education system that gives every child a chance.
Finally, as a small business owner, I know the challenges of building a successful future in Erie County. As a former county employee, I know the gaps and inefficiencies in the system. We deserve an Erie County that is healthy, safe, and equitable—where everyone has a chance at success. I’m ready to get to work so that we have an Erie County that we can be proud of.
Why are you running to be Erie County Executive?
Growing up poor in a rural area, I saw firsthand the failures of a system that leaves so many behind—that left me and my family behind. Seeing the pain of those around me motivated me to dedicate my life to fighting for a better future for all of us. Over the past 15 years, through my work at the Erie County Office of Children and Youth, as a full-time therapist for youth in the foster system, and as the president of the Erie School Board, I’ve worked toward an Erie that is healthy, safe, and equitable. I’m running for office because I’m ready to bring that vision to county government. I envision a government that is connected to and representative of the people it serves, regardless of who they are, where they're from, or what they have. I have seen up close that in order to have a successful and prosperous economy, we need a healthcare and education system that puts people first. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work to build an Erie County where no one is left behind.
What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?
My top three priorities are healthcare for all, economic justice, and a quality education for every child.
How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?
For the past four years, I’ve worked at local, state, and national levels to address inequities in public education, and to hold elected officials accountable to ensure all students have access to quality education. As the president of the Erie School Board, this has been central to my work and would be a significant focus of my administration. In Erie County, we need to invest in our education system—both traditional K-12, but also in trades education and apprenticeship programs that actually meet the needs of local employers.
How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system?
As a mental health professional, I see every day how life-changing access to quality care can be. No one should have to go into debt to receive the care they need. Our healthcare system is fundamentally broken—to the point where you can determine life expectancy based on the zip code where someone lives. But when a county is healthy, people are able to build living fulfilling lives. It affects their family, their friends, and our entire community. Healthy community members are connected to each other, able to support each other, and reinvest in the community around them.
As county executive, I will be deeply committed to making this a reality by investing in a community health model. This means embedding healthcare professionals within the communities they serve—including with health clinics in schools and satellite offices in rural parts of the county. I will fight for meaningful public-private partnerships that bring quality healthcare options here in Erie County, so that no one has to leave for Pittsburgh, Buffalo, or Cleveland to receive the care they need.
According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?
As a small business owner myself, I completely share the stance of the ERCGP that tax burdens should never fall disproportionately onto small businesses. We have major needs in this county—for changes that cost significant amounts of money—but small businesses should always be viewed as a partner in that change, not its funders. When proper investments are made, and the ultra-wealthy and large corporations are made to pay their fair share, we can afford to make the changes we need while including, attracting, and uplifting local businesses.
Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds. As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?
As Kathy Dahlkemper has said, this is our “moonshot moment.” We have an extraordinary opportunity to use this money to transform the future of Erie County. I believe we should focus on utilizing the funding to address the areas the budget was not able to address. A few of the high-priority areas include: infrastructure around broadband internet throughout the county, investing in creating good-paying jobs through renewable energy development, and instituting a community health model that ensures that those who serve our communities know and understand them.
Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization. Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?
I am willing to make long term investments that create equitable opportunities for all Erie County residents, especially those who have not had the same access to resources in the past. We need to invest in renewable energies and green infrastructure in order to keep our water, air, and land safe for our residents and future generations. I do support Opportunity Zones and Tax Increment Finances when they are equitable and not implemented in a way that encourages gentrification.