County, valley economic leaders
“I represent the average person,” said the new Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong addressing a convivial crowd of county officials, politicians or their representatives and other guests on Thursday. “We understand the power of the average person.”
Executive Armstrong, speaking at Coca-Cola Stadium in Allentown, introduced his remarks by assuring the attendees, “We put progress over politics.”
Armstrong said that “over the past several years, our local economy has undergone a renaissance … we still make stuff here.”
According to the Lehigh County executive, Lehigh and Northampton counties – the Lehigh Valley – has the 65th largest gross domestic product in the U.S. “Our economy is bigger than the economies of 108 countries.”
“We produce plastic products, craft beers, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and almost anything you can imagine,” said Armstrong.
After recognizing the board of commissioners, the judiciary, and his “fellow executive branch elected officials” Armstrong lauded the County employees for their “high standards, conscientiousness and strong work ethic.”
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Lehigh County couldn’t ask for a better team. Lehigh County’s taxpayers could not ask for a better team of department heads, supervisors and employees.
“I want them to know that their service never goes unnoticed or unappreciated by me.”
Armstrong said, “We all benefit from the wisdom of previous county executives, boards of commissioners and row officers who planned wisely, spent fugally and fulfilled their duties as good stewards of our taxpayer’s money.”
Armstrong also alluded to Dr. Martin Luther King by saying that “we should judge a person by the quality of their character and not by their choice of gender or who they choose to love.” He referred to his recent “administrative notice” prohibiting discrimination on the basis of someone’s gender identity.
He touted the state of the economy by asserting that “everyone who wants a job should be able to find one.” He said, “It’s our job to help people who help themselves.”
Armstrong said he is “a believer in efforts to make homes affordable to working class people” though he didn’t elaborate on plans. He said he believes that “people who come to the county seeking help for drug addiction should have it.”
“Right now, in Lehigh County and in America, we are facing a serious public-health crisis. Our high schools and even our middle schools are rocked with almost daily news of young people in the prime of their lives lost to opioids.
“In order for Lehigh County to do its part to combat the opioid epidemic, I would like to expand the CTC (Communities That Care) network county wide. According to Armstrong, “CTC is a nationwide network that combines the efforts of school districts, government and community leaders and focuses it all in the same direction.”
He said, “CTC communities were 25 percent less likely to have initiated delinquent behavior, 32-percent less likely to have tried alcohol, and 33 percent less likely to have tried cigarettes.”