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County Hall Corner: The Larry Awards for 2020

The motion picture industry has its Oscar Awards, the theater industry has its Tony Awards, so it is time that County Hall Corner should have its Larry Awards. Following county government for the past six years, I believe it is time to give some recognition for the amazing jobs that many have performed through unprecedented challenges. Here are my selections:

OUTSTANDING ROOKIE IN OFFICE AWARD: DA Ryan Gardner. District Attorney Gardner hit the ground running months before he even took office in January of 2020 and totally reorganized his office into a lean, clean, prosecuting machine. He exhibits a rare leadership trait of demonstrating boldness in a humble manner, which not only gets better results but also earns the respect of all those around him. Gardner has literally redefined the position of District Attorney in Lycoming County.

EXCELLENCE IN THANKLESS JOB AWARD: Coroner Chuck Kiessling Jr. For the past eight years, Coroner Kiessling has been pleading with the county for a new Coroner’s Office/Regional Forensic Center to deal with the steadily increasing number of homicides, suicides, drug overdoses, unclaimed deceased bodies in his sphere of authority. Dealing with COVID deaths just added to his already overburdened workload. Yet, he goes above and beyond his job, for example, championing a cause to eliminate Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases by supplying baby cribs to needy mothers. He sees the worst of troubles and yet, for the past twenty years, continues to perform his duties in ways that are nothing less than miraculous.

MISSED THE MOST AWARD: Annabel R. Miller. There are many candidates for this award; Karl Demi in the Information Services Department and Ed Robbins in Juvenile Probation, for example, but Annabel Miller is the absolute embodiment of a public servant. She went to work for Lycoming County on May 20, 1943, as a typist in the Register and Recorder’s Office. She was a fixture in that office for decades and decades, eventually becoming the elected Register and Recorder in 1992, serving until her retirement in March of 2020. Her commitment to excellence was legendary. We will never see the likes of her again.

MOST UNAPPRECIATED PUBLIC SERVANT AWARD: Director of the Department of Public Safety Jeff Hutchinson. “Hutch” took over in 2020 from John Yingling, who had been in the position for many years and inherited the nightmare of overseeing the county’s multi-faceted public safety services in the midst of a pandemic. He has been an essential member of the county’s COVID Planning and Coordination Team. Hutch is a very modest man — he keeps ducking me for an interview — and is very highly respected by all who know and work with him. He deserves high praise and appreciation for maintaining stability in emergency services during these very unstable times.

CONGENIALITY AWARD: Administrative Manager for the Lycoming County Commissioners Eileen Ebner. This woman has been mentioned several times in my articles because she deserves it. Eileen is often the first stop for the public when seeking to communicate with the county commissioners. She prepares for the public meetings, interacts with county employees, engages the public when they have questions, and receives more than her share of grief over matters she has no control over. Yet through all this, she never loses her smile. Eileen is a true trooper and brings a ray of sunlight to every dark day.

TEAMWORK AWARD: The Lycoming County Courthouse. It is impossible to describe the difficulties that the courts, the DA’s office, the sheriff’s office, and the others have contended with through the coronavirus year. The dedication and ingenuity that kept the wheels of justice moving forward in Lycoming County through 2020 is a story that truly needs telling someday. Hats off and high praise to the entire team.

Finally, we must at least give a high five to the three Lycoming County Commissioners; Scott Metzger, Tony Mussare, and Rick Mirabito. They pulled together and helped pull us all through a very rough year.

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