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This Week’s LION: Publisher Jim Webb and Editor Steph Nordstrom

It was ten years ago this month that I wrote my very first column for Webb Weekly. In April of 2014, I had a lot on my plate. I was a pastor at a church in Williamsport, a virtual professor for an international MBA program (which also meant I had to travel abroad occasionally), served as a township supervisor, and was on what seemed like a dozen different volunteer community organizations. One of these was Project Bald Eagle. I was directing the Faith-Based Committee and was invited to a presentation for drug awareness at a Catholic school. I could not find an unlocked entrance to the school, and there was another man who appeared to be having the same problem as me. Since we were in the same boat, we introduced ourselves to one another. His name was Jim Webb.

I told Jim that I enjoyed reading the Webb Weekly to some degree but wished that there were more articles focusing on people rather than just sports and Good Housekeeping magazine type of stuff. He thought that was a good idea and said, “You’re hired.” I smiled and told him I was not looking for a job, nor did I have the interest or the time. But Jim is a very good salesman, so I countered him with a challenge. I would try to write one article and see what he thinks. If it was acceptable and it would not take an exorbitant amount of time on my part, I would give it a go.

Well, the rest is history. We named it “This Week’s LION,” and I found myself thoroughly engaged in finding unrecognized individuals who were making really worthwhile contributions to our community.

Guiding me along was Webb Weekly editor Steph Nordstrom. Yes, Jim is the head, but I believe Steph is the neck that keeps the head straight! I sometimes stop at the office and bounce ideas around to Steph, and she would honestly judge them on their merits and practicability. And if I texted Steph a question, I knew I would not have to wait long for a response.

This went on for two years, and then Jim took me aside at the Webb Weekly Christmas Party in 2015 and asked if I could start another column on local government. My plate was full, but it sounded interesting as I have always had my nose in politics. It did take up more time than I thought, however, which resulted in slowly moving the LION articles the back burner.

Getting in the weeds of government processes and making them understandable to the general public was a real challenge. For example, I spent hundreds of hours following the ins and outs of changing the city government of Williamsport from a strong mayor-council system to a council-manager system, which was a referendum on the November ballot in 2017. It was brutal, but I found that my Webb Weekly articles on that topic were very well received by many and apparently did have an impact on defeating the referendum.

But where I found myself most was following Lycoming County government, and especially the weekly County Commissioners Meeting. When I began attending in March of 2017, they had two meetings: a working session on Tuesday morning and the official meeting on Thursday morning. I can still remember that first session and sizing up the 3M commissioners: Jack McKernan, Tony Mussare, and Rick Mirabito. Over the years, I got to know them all quite well, including Scott Metzger, who became chairman in 2020.

The meetings were quite businesslike but friendly. Listening to the directors or specialists from the various departments who gave reports or sought funding was truly professional in their field. Over the years, I have interviewed these folks a number of times and always come away impressed.

Several stand out especially. The first person who came to my rescue was Marci Hessert, the Administration Manager for the Commissioner’s Office. She was my lifeline, especially during the COVID era. Another invaluable source was Mya Toon, the Chief Procurement and Grant Officer for Lycoming County. She acquired millions of dollars of grant money from the state and federal government for the county. Given my frustration with grants, Mya is a miracle worker.

Two leaders that I think deserve Nobel prizes are Director of Voter Services Forrest Lehman and Director of the Lycoming County Resource Management Services Jason Yorks.

Forrest has a non-stop customer service shop with a small team that deserves battle ribbons for all they have to go through. Forrest and his team are always willing to help me and answer my questions.

Jason is another who walks me through the density of state and federal laws and makes them understandable. His is the only department that actually makes money for the county — a lot of money, actually.

Behind the scenes are Jim Webb and Steph Nordstrom, who did not push me in one direction or another but were always available if I had questions or concerns. It is a privilege and joy to be a part of the Webb Weekly writing team, knowing that Jim would give me a broad brush and Steph would help me get the canvas on the frame.