Changing of the guard took place today when the newly elected Schuylkill County Commissioners held their reorganization meeting at 10 a.m., at the courthouse in Pottsville. The political power shifts from Democratic to Republican party. The first public meeting will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier, who was re-elected to his third term was elected chairman of the board, a position he held four years ago and served as the minority commissioner the last four years.
He will be joined on the board by two newcomers, George Halcovage and Gary Hess. Staudenmeier and Halcovage will be the majority commissioners, both are Republican, and Hess will become the minority commissioner. He is a Democrat.
Staudenmeier is blessed with having two successful businessmen serve with him. Halcovage heads an insurance business and Hess a catering business and also served as mayor of Schuylkill Haven.
Expected to be named the county solicitor is Attorney Alvin B. Marshall, who is an expert in negotiating contracts with unions. Seven unions currently represent county employees. Marshall succeeds Attorney Claude A. Lord "Cal" Shields, who had previously served as district attorney.
The commissioners will be dealing with a new controller, Christy Joy, who has good credentials for the post which oversees county spending as he is a CPA, the first to hold the controller's post. Joy succeeds Melinda Kantner, who was defeated for re-election in November's General Election.
Joy is a Republican while Kantner was first elected as a Democrat four years ago but switched to Independent last year when her party would not support her for re-election because of the four years of turmoil and controversy she raised with the Democrat majority commissioners.
The past four years the county was managed by the Democrats, Mantura Gallagher, a retired school teacher, who became the first woman to be chairperson of the board, and Francis McAndrew, who was the county sheriff for 16 years. Because of the stress and four years of combat with the controller both chose not to seek re-election.
The new board of commissioners will be dealing with a budget for 2012 adopted by the outgoing board of commissioners which in order to be balanced may have to draw as much as $3 million from the county's reserved fund which stands at $10 million and is earmarked for use in case a catastrophe hits the county. Staudenmeier was part of the board which approved the budget but hopes with the help of the new commissioners to hold a tight reign on spending and perhaps end the year without dipping into the reserve fund.
Friday was moving day for the commissioners into their new quarters. Staudenmeier had only to move next door from the smallest office to largest office formerly occupied by Gallagher, who after presiding at her final meeting last Thursday removed her final belongings consisting of a large number of flower containers from the office. Hess moves into quarters vacated by Staudenmeier and Halcovage takes over the office used by McAndrew, which almost as large as the chairman's.
The Schuylkill County Prison Board will hold its reorganization today following the commissioners meeting and although there will be four new members joining the board no change is anticipated in its leadership or policy. It will remain under Democratic control.
President Judge William E. Baldwin is expected to be re-elected chairman. The newcomers on the board are Halcovage and Hess, Joy and new District Attorney Karen Byrne Noon. The returnees are Staudenmeier and Sheriff Joseph Groody. The Democrats will still hold a 4-3 majority. Baldwin, Hess, Noon and Groody are Democrats while Staudenmeier, Halcovage and Joy are the Republicans.
The Schuylkill County Salary Board will be dominated by Republicans. It comprises of the three commissioners and controller, a three to one ratio.
Although the past four years the majority were Democrats, the two Democratic commissioners had to rely on the Republican commissioner to get salaries approved as the controller was not always in agreement with the board's policies.
The Schuylkill County Employees Retirement Board goes back to Republican control and the retirees are hoping to get better cooperation because under Democratic control the past four years the retirees did not receive any cost of living increases in their retirement checks.
The Retirement Board is comprised of the three commissioners, controller and county treasurer.