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Who is the Fourth County Commissioner Anyways?

Before I get to this, it is hard to believe March Madness and The Masters are in the rearview mirror. This can mean only one thing – Spring has sprung! The crack or bing off the bat can be heard at every level from Little League to Big League. Things are greening up nicely even though it’s been a little chillier than we all like. Seeing people out and about jogging, biking, and coming out of hibernation warms my heart. Trout season opens this weekend and spring gobbler finishes out the month. What a great time to be alive in Central Pennsylvania.

Get out and enjoy. Enjoy the great outdoors as Manny Gordon used to say. Take someone fishing with you, young or old it will be appreciated. Call up that old hunting buddy that may be raising a family or a job obligation has put some time between your friendship and last hunt. Get out and chase the turkey around. Penn’s Woods is loaded with trophy spring gobblers, and trust me they’re a gobbling.

Take a new friend or an old friend on a hike; there are many great local trails to be visited. The beauty here in our home state rivals any place in the world! I can guarantee you’ll have great conversation and enjoy being out in nature.

If you know someone that has had recent hardship get them out of the house and enjoying the Spring season. Even if it’s just a ride to see what’s going on around the area. The sun, the green grass and flowers have amazing feel-better powers. What a blessing, take advantage.

Well now on to the real world we live in and what is going on right here in Lycoming County. A few weeks ago I wrote (3/16 One Nation Under God) that Lycoming County has a fourth commissioner and he is not elected by “We the People”. The individual’s take-home over $100,000 a year. I left it at that because I was traveling that week and have not gotten back to the subject. Many of you though have reached out to me wanting to know the who, what and why behind the statement. Some even had their own thought on who I was referring to.

First of all, it is not Mr. Vince Matteo head of the Chamber of Commerce. I do understand the thought many of you had but nope, wrong guy. Mr. Matteo does work closely with County government but this is normal because of the importance of business, revenue and tourism plans to be coordinated between his office and that of the commissioners.

The position I was referring to is the County Director of Administration/Chief Clerk, which is a fancy title for General Manager. The person currently occupying this position is Mr. Matthew McDermott.

Mr. McDermott is a career Army officer. From all accounts he does a fine job and believe me I poked my nose around with different County department folks. It was probably unfair to him for me just to throw out that statement. I like Mr. McDermott and think he is doing a fine job.

My issue has nothing to do with Mr. McDermott; it has everything to do with the position of County Director of Administration/Chief Clerk. I asked many local business people about this position and only a couple even knew it existed. When they found out how much it paid the most common response was, “You’ve got to be sh****** me, Jim.” One person even wanted to know if the job was advertised because he would have liked to apply. And yes, it was, just not in my publication.

This position has not been newly created but was reclassified to current status in 2007. We have three County Commissioners earning $70,000 a year. Which. incidentally, I don’t feel is enough for the job they are asked to do. “We the Taxpayers” are then asked to cough up another 100 grand for a Business Manager, Office Manager, Director of Administration/Chief Clerk. I don’t care what you call it; it is that middle management position, which in the corporate world has been eliminated in a cost cutting effort.

I simply don’t feel the necessity for this position in County government. It is an example of how continued governmental growth at every level is ridiculous. From Federal government to your local municipality managerial cuts need to become a reality. We are paying $310,000 and benefits to manage Lycoming County. That is just crazy.

I believe Jack McKernan, Tony Mussare and Rick Mirabito, our Lycoming County Commissioners, are good men who put their heart and soul into whatever they do. They should, along with their staff, share the responsibilities of the eliminated position. It would make them stronger managers of the County.

I know, and have heard, all the arguments on why the County needs this position. And they may really need it, but the taxpayers don’t. The most compelling argument is this position provides stability and transition when a new commissioner or commissioners take their seat, which is a bunch of poppycock. Allowing any one person to sit as a non-elected position in a government job like this only increases the opportunity for corruption and complacency. It eliminates the say of “We the People” by the power of voting out an individual that we don’t feel is doing a good job.

To me anyone sitting in a position of daily government should have a term limit. To allow anyone to sit in the smae chair only increases the probability of corruption and lack of urgency. Thus, why we need term limits in the House, Senate and for every elected official. If the Director of Administration is deemed necessary it should be an elected position with an established term limit.

At a time when the heroin epidemic is draining all local government coffers, money saved by the elimination of this position could be used for another prison guard, probation officer, County detective, or a full-time person for just addressing the heroin issue.

Heroin is the number one problem in our area. No one has had a plan that has worked on or even slowed down the problem. The money and resources being spent on this issue are astronomical. To most addicts it is a death sentence. To the family and friends of the addicted it is the most destructive and heart-wrenching problem any single drug has brought to our country.

No one sees the death and destruction heroin causes more than County Coroner Charles Kiessling. Desperate times require desperate measures – that is how I interpret his recent stance on classifying deaths caused by overdose as a homicide.

Before anyone casted the first stone, they should have engaged in a discussion and hopefully had a better idea. I will have more on Mr. Kiessling, who is a good and dedicated man, in a tough position next week.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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