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County Hall Corner: Not the Last Laugh

It all started with Jason York, director of the Lycoming County Resource Recovery Facility, otherwise known as the County Landfill. As there are often expenditure items that need to be approved by the county commissioners, Jason is something of a regular at the weekly work and regular sessions of the Lycoming County Commissioner meetings. Jason

It all started with Jason York, director of the Lycoming County Resource Recovery Facility, otherwise known as the County Landfill. As there are often expenditure items that need to be approved by the county commissioners, Jason is something of a regular at the weekly work and regular sessions of the Lycoming County Commissioner meetings. Jason stood out by not standing out.

Almost every one of the various department heads have their own particular style of clothing that they wear to the commissioner meetings. Most of the men, whose jobs are generally indoors, wear ties but no jackets, and the ladies wear dresses or pantsuits. Those department heads whose work is more outside in nature generally dress more casually. Jason York always wears an orange reflective vest. In fact, when he brings others from his department along to answer questions from the commissioners, they generally wear a bright, reflective vest as well. Jason said it is sort of a ‘badge’ for them, which is why they do it.

But at the work session on Tuesday, October 23rd, Jason was wearing a very stylish suit. It was so unusual, he had one of his fellow directors ask if he was going to a funeral, another wondered if he was getting married, and another wondered if his reflective vest was out to the cleaner. This teasing went on for the few minutes before the commissioners came in (they almost always arrive exactly at 10:00 a.m. or a few minutes fashionably late), the room was alive like it had been primed before a comedy show.

As the commissioners went to sit down at their seats, they sensed the levity, and at that moment the focus was on Fran McJunkin’s shoes. Fran is deputy director of the Planning Department and was sitting in the front row, and someone had pointed out her rather stylish shoes. Commissioner Mirabito noted it was hard to tell where the shoes ended and socks began. Not long after this, everyone was comparing each other’s shoes and making hilarious comments about each of them. The local newspaper reporter commented that she was glad she brought her camera to be able to capture this valuable moment in government footwear history.

Of course, all this was done in jest, and though it lasted less than ten minutes, it was revealing. County business is serious business, and every item on the agenda is examined closely and especially when money is involved, the expenditure must be fully vented and alternatives considered. Sometimes the discussions get more than a little heated.

But, these people are not robots, either. Being able to take a few moments to relax before rolling up the sleeves and diving into the work at hand from time to time is a good management practice. Abraham Lincoln used to open up his cabinet meetings with a joke. One day he was reading a particularly humorous story and noticed no one was even smiling. “Gentlemen,” he is reported to have reproached them, “why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh occasionally, I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.”

So, for those who might have walked by the meeting room last Tuesday morning and saw the sign outside that says, “Quiet: Meeting in Process,” and yet heard rolls of laughter inside and wondered what was going on — it was all good. We all need a good laugh once in a while. Our lives might just depend upon it.

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