‘Your government is here ... working’
Lamont McClure was sworn into office Jan. 2 at 3:30 pm Over the next two days, he nominated most of his cabinet. In addition, he filled most of the Deputy positions. He announced these appointments in his county council report on Jan. 4. And in a sign that he will be a very different executive than his predecessor, McClure also announced these appointments in a very public news conference earlier in the day. Every one of his nominees was present, too.
“I want to applaud you for doing this rapidly,” said Republican John Cusick, who until Tuesday was county council president “Having sat through the previous two administrations, and having watched them stumble to get these appointments going, I think you’re off to a good start. Congratulations.”
McClure introduced his cabinet picks them from the courthouse rotunda. Calling them a “mix of experience and new blood,” he was especially pleased to have appointed the county’s first ever female solicitor and public defender. Two firsts.
Who are they?
Director of Administration, Charles Dertinger - He’s a former Elections Commission Chair as well as a former council member who sparred regularly with Ron Angle.
Dertinger and McClure have been close friends for years. Just as McClure took a 50 percent pay cut to put himself under the microscope as county executive, Dertinger may actually be giving up even more money. He’s a construction manager on various NYC projects like the Madison Square Garden renovation, United Nations modernization, World Trade Center, and most recently, Grand Central Station
“Charles is bringing all of this public and private experience to help me run county government,” said McClure.
Dertinger will also be acting executive in McClure’s absence. “Your government will be in good hands” McClure assured everyone.
County Solicitor, Melissa (Missy) Rudas - Missy Rudas has never been a county employee, but her association with the Easton courthouse goes back to the ’80s. As a college and law school student, she searched real estate titles to earn tuition money and developed a reputation then as a hard worker whose work was considered superior. Like her father, she graduated from Duke University. She also graduated cum laude from Dickinson School of Law.
McClure picked Rudas out of the private sector. “We’re breaking a sclerotic bond, with the same solicitors holding the same jobs over and over again,” he said. He described her as “highly intelligent” and a person with a “reputation as a tenacious advocate.” Though he wants to avoid the courtroom, McClure said those who sue the county will face her “and they’ll know why I picked her.”
Fiscal Affairs, Steve Barron - Barron is currently NorCo’s controller and has been elected three times. “Steve Barron was there with us in the fight to save Gracedale,” noted McClure. “Because he is a truth teller and so good with numbers, I believe he’s saved us over $12 million with performance audits,” he added. “No one knows the finances better than Steve Barron. There isn’t anyone I trust more.”
As controller, Barron discovered that John Brown had improperly claimed $1,500 in expenses, which Brown had to repay Barron also flagged excessive travel in the human resources department, which included a trip to Las Vegas and New Orleans. He found that human resources had spent thousands of dollars for gift cards, but was unable to account for many of them.
Human Services, Sue Wandalowski - As recently as the day he was sworn in, McClure expressed concern for children who have been negatively impacted by the opioid crisis by being forced into foster care. So it’s no surprise that his pick for human services director would be someone who has worked with children. Wandalowski is a highly placed program manager at KidsPeace, a private charity founded in 1882 and dedicated to helping troubled children.
Wandalowski is highly educated. She graduated summa cum laude from St. Joseph’s University. She then attended University of Pennsylvania for a MS Ed. in psychological services. Again, she graduated summa cum laude. “I may have to rethink this,” observed McClure. “Your grades are better than mine.”
Human Resources, Elizabeth Kelly - As an attorney at the King, Spry law firm, Kelly became experienced working with public sector employers on employee matters. She has also served as human resources director at Allentown School District in 2012-13 and again for the past year. She has experience with executive searches, management recruitment, onboarding, employee and labor relations with five unions and two supervisory groups. She has managed healthcare programs, has provided employee education about sexual harassment and other prohibited forms of discrimination. She is also trained in workers comp and employee comp claim management.
“We’re going to have a different relationship with the employees of Northampton County,” said McClure. “For too long, the employees have felt that their county government, specifically through human resources, was adversarial to them. That is not the kind of relationship I want my administration to have with our employees.”
Public Works. Michael Emili - A project engineer in Bethlehem city government for the past four years, Emili has a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. At Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Emili earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. His GPA was 3.83.
What prompted McClure to steal Emili from Bethlehem is the engineer’s experience in bridge construction. He can perform bridge inspections and prepare bid packages.
Since Northampton County owns and maintains 119 bridges, McClure predicts “[w]e’ll be able to hit the ground running.”
Community and Economic Development, Tina Smith - Smith is currently the president of the Nazareth Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce. It’s a position she has held since 2007.
What impresses McClure about Smith is her work “to develop small businesses in the heart of our county.”
She is also a founder of the successful Martin on Main Festival.
Public Defender. Nuria DiLuzio - McClure described her as an experienced litigator and former public defender. He has already appointed her acting public defender so the courts will be covered.
DiLuzio is married to Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio. Does this mean the office will have to disqualify itself from any case involving a defendant charged by Bethlehem police?
In a word, No.
DiLuzio has sought and obtained an advisory opinion from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. If she is defending someone in a matter in which her husband is a witness, there’s an obvious conflict. But as McClure pointed out, “That’s not going to happen. They’re both administrators. Anybody who raises it either does not understand the law or is raising it for political purposes.”
DA John Morganelli agrees with McClure, who suggested that anyone who thinks this might be a conflict should talk to President Judge Stephen Baratta.
Sheriff - Though he believes the Administrative Code unlawfully hamstrings the executive, McClure intends to follow the process to appoint a sheriff. This means the position will be advertised. Applications will be forwarded to him by the solicitor, and McClure will rate his top three choices before forwarding them to the courts. The President Judge can add names to this list and will rate them as well. Then McClure will make his choice. “I have no candidates firmly in mind,” he said.
McClure has named Lt. Richard Johnston acting sheriff.
Corrections - Todd Buskirk, who retired two years ago, has agreed to return as warden until May on a part-time basis. “What he will do is provide us with three decades of warden experience,” noted McClure. During that time, McClure will seek a warden as a career service employee. His function will be limited to the nuts and bolts of a prison operation, not policy.
When it comes to matters of policy, like recidivism reduction, battling the opioid crisis or the surge of inmates who are mentally ill, that’s where McClure will need a director of corrections.
He intends to have both a warden and corrections director in place by May.
He told Ron Heckman that, at that time, he will have a long-range jail plan for after discussing the matter with the courts.
“Nothing gets done without the courts,” he said.
Director of Court Services - In contrast to his predecessor, McClure said he believes the office exists to supervise the row offices. He pointed out that there was a real crisis in one of the row offices a few years ago, so he thinks the position must be filled. But for now, he’ll do it himself. He may also be considering the suggestion that these offices be placed under the Court Administrator.
Other positions - In addition to his cabinet selections, McClure has appointed several deputies and assistant solicitors. Upper Nazareth’s Becky Bartlett, who taught at Northampton Community College, is a deputy administrator. Scott Parsons, a former council member, is now deputy director of public works. “He will be proactive in all the various phases of public works,” said McClure. Mary Lou Kaboly, a benefits administrator, will be a deputy director of human resources at Gracedale. Another deputy director of human resources is Kathleen McNeill. Janet Jackson, Esq., has been named deputy public defender. Michael Corriere, Esq., a former member of council, will be the deputy solicitor. McClure has also stolen Tim Brennan from Barron, and will hire litigator Phil Lauer as an assistant solicitor. He is keeping Dave Ceraul, who served as an assistant solicitor under John Brown.
“You’re government is here, it is working,” he said. “I am here every day, I am working.”