State of the County
When Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure was first asked to deliver a “State of the County” address, he wondered what he’d be able to say because he’s been in office for two months. So he decided instead to speak about the challenges he’s facing. In conversational style, he made his focus pretty clear in his March 2 address to a packed house of at least 150 people at Historic Hotel Bethlehem.
“We all work for the people of Northampton County,” he said after introducing his staff.
Like most people, he’s concerned about the increasing number of warehouses and the traffic they bring. He is concerned about quality of life issues, and reiterated that new job creation should be targeted to the often-ignored slate belt. But he pointed out that economic development “is only a small part of what we do.” The real goal of county government, he said, is to serve the people who are most vulnerable.
What has shocked him most as county executive, he said, is to see how badly employee morale has suffered over the past several years. This makes him concerned that county services will suffer.
“When your grandmother is at Gracedale, you want people who care,” he observed. Before he came into office, the county’s Area Agency on Aging received an “F” in a state assessment. He said that was unacceptable, noting that the elderly are among our “most vulnerable population.”
He was particularly bothered that the agency had lost three files.
“Those aren’t files, those are people who were lost,” he said.
He pointed to a child protection agency that had been hamstrung by 22 state laws enacted in the wake of the child abuse conviction of Jerry Sandusky. He said the office is consumed by red tape, delaying them from getting into the field.
“If we don’t go, nobody goes to check on that child,” he warned.
So for now, his primary focus is on rebuilding morale and appropriate staffing, what he called “blocking and tackling.”
His staff is working on a plan to deal with the opioid crisis. He said the biggest problem he’s seen is a lack of inpatient care for young people.
He also said he has no intention of running for another office.
“This is my highest ambition,” he said.
McClure’s address was attended by most members of County Council, DA John Morganelli, Controller Bucky Szulborski and former Executive John Brown. McClure also pointed to several officials from municipalities throughout the county. The event was open to the public at no charge. It even included a free breakfast, and was sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.