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County Hall Corner: Getting to Know the CEO – Matt McDermott

Lycoming County has very few big employers. The medical community (UPMC Hospital & Susquehanna Physician Services), the educational community (Pennsylvania College of Technology, Lycoming College, and the Williamsport and Loyalsock School Districts), and another major employer that many do not recognize as such — Lycoming County government itself.

The county employs 550 full-time and another hundred part-time employees. Its current budget is over $110 million, covering a vast array of operations, including public safety, prison services, information services, human services, landfill and recycling, planning, community and economic development, conservation, and many more. The three county commissioners are what could be seen as the board of directors, but there has to be someone who is the chief executive officer over all the operational areas, the CEO. To manage such a wide dispersal of people and services throughout the county takes a very special person. It turns out that Lycoming County has exactly that kind of man — Matthew A. McDermott.

Seven years ago were challenging for the county as the natural gas boom had faded at the same time demands for government services were expanding. The position of Director of Administration for Lycoming County opened up in 2014, and it is hard to imagine a better candidate than Matt McDermott. A retired decorated US Army battalion commander who served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan as well as at the Pentagon itself. Matt also holds two Masters degrees from Georgetown University in Social and Public Policy and Emergency and Disaster Management.

Taking the helm for the county in January 2015, his areas of responsibility for executing daily operations were vast. Besides the services listed above, he also had to deal with several employee unions, maintain and improve federal and state partnerships, coordinate with a myriad of authorities, boards, and committees — and do all this in conjunction with the overall direction of the three-man county commissioner board.

During the years I have covered the county for Webb Weekly, many employees have shared their appreciation for Matt McDermott, often unsolicited. He not only provides a steady hand but it is also a helping hand. If there is a problem to fix or a concern that needs dealt with, Matt is there to deal with it. When Covid hit in the Spring of 2020, Matt McDermott was one of the very few county employees who showed up every day at the Executive Plaza Building, where the bulk of county operations are housed. His ‘boots on the ground’ approach was reassuring during a time of great uncertainty.

Matt is also a man who can speak truth to power. He told me a story of a conference that he and some Lycoming County officials had with the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for funding for the levee project. The Corps representative was throwing around some numbers explaining how daunting this project was. Matt interrupted him by telling him that he knew those figures were palm dust to the resources available to the Corps. When the representative asked how he would know this, Matt told him that he used to work three doors down and three rings in the Pentagon. He made his point, as the closer to the center of the Pentagon, the higher the authority. Matt’s experience is invaluable in many ways, but none more than encouraging the US Army Corps of Engineers to become a helpful partner in the ongoing levee repair project.

Matt McDermott is a hybrid in that he is the ultimate manager, maintaining the systems and operations as well as they can be, but at the same time is a leader, one who is always looking to make improvements that benefits both the employees and the organizational structure. Peter Drucker, possibly the greatest management educator and author of the 20th century, famously said, “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” Lycoming County is fortunate to have one man in Matt McDermott, who does both at the same time.