Putting Party Aside and Working for What’s Right

I admit I often refer to my colleagues as the “Republican” commissioners. But it’s more for simple identification than for criticism. While I routinely disagree with them, it’s not because of their party; it’s because they’re wrong. Throughout my term as Commissioner, including recent actions to properly support the county sheriff’s office, I have worked to do what’s best for Westmoreland County regardless of party affiliation.

There’s no question that I have had my disagreements with our current Republican Sheriff Jon Held. He and I have stark philosophical differences over the authority and responsibilities of a county sheriff in Pennsylvania. My commissioner colleagues share those differences with me. However, we cannot allow past arguments to taint the basic functions of the sheriff’s office. And that’s what happened recently.

In late July I joined with Sheriff Jon Held and Republican Controller Jeff Balzer in voting to add four positions to the sheriff’s office. (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8793193-74/sheriff-held-county#axzz3hf8vyRZi). These deputies will focus on serving warrants (a core function of that office). The positions will almost certainly pay for themselves, as the sheriff’s office receives $60 for each warrant it serves, which is paid by the defendant. The workload, and the analysis on the payback, more than justified their creation.

My Republican commissioner colleagues, however, voted against it without any detailed rationale, no analysis and no alternative. They are simply holding a grudge over past arguments with the sheriff. Their refusal to even consider something that will pay for itself is simply retribution against the independently-elected sheriff for his refusal to blindly follow their directives. And this came only a month after Commissioners Anderson and Courtney finally acknowledged that they intentionally short-changed by $156,000 in their phony budget the sheriff’s office overtime and part-time budget line items (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8710069-74/sheriff-budget-department#axzz3hf8vyRZi).
It’s a shame that their personal animosity keeps interfering with the core functions of the sheriff’s department. Actions should never be based on grudges, and county government deserves better than petty vindictiveness. I commend Sheriff Held for further exposing the failed leadership of Commissioners Anderson and Courtney.

This is similar to when other Republican office-holders joined me in stopping an effort by Anderson and Courtney to threaten the county’s robust pension system. You’ll recall last summer when Republican Treasurer Jared Squires, Controller Balzer and I voted to retain a pension consultant that helped grow our fund to record numbers, and following a national search was determined to be by far the lowest cost provider. This was a direct rebuke to Commissioner Anderson and Courtney, who were inexplicably pushing for a much more expensive consultant to manage the pension fund despite its success. (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/6468352-74/gallagher-pension-county#axzz3hf8vyRZi). Thankfully, commonsense once again prevailed over party loyalty.

While I am a proud “Democrat” commissioner, I am first and foremost a “Westmoreland County” commissioner. I consider ideas on their merit, not based on the party registration of who proposed them. These are just two notable examples of my record of working with Republicans row office-holders to expose the failed leadership of the Republican commissioners.

I am honored that another Republican who helped expose these failures recently endorsed my candidacy for reelection. Jason Atwood, who performed well in this past spring’s primary, bravely broke from blind party loyalty to support me.

In announcing his endorsement Mr. Atwood wrote, “After much consideration and in-depth research I want to make public who I will be supporting in the upcoming county elections this fall. I am a conservative Republican; however, I feel we must choose our leaders based on who will to the best job for the people.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I am grateful that Jason Atwood recognizes the work I have done for the benefit of everyone in Westmoreland County. He joins a growing chorus of Republicans who are supporting me this fall. Every resident of Westmoreland County, regardless of party, can count upon my continued commitment to work in the best interests of all.