Carbon leadership in transition
The leadership team in Carbon County will see some big changes in 2012.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, who lost his bid for reelection, said his farewells; Commissioner Charles Getz officially announced his retirement; Randall Smith, county administrator, served his last meeting; and Michael Ozalas, county solicitor, announced that his last day will be Jan. 2.
That leaves Republican Commissioner Wayne Nothstein as the sole seasoned commissioner who will sit on the board when the commissioners are sworn in at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 3. Nothstein will be joined by his running mate and newcomer, Thomas Gerhard.
The third seat, which will be made vacant when Getz officially retires at the end of the day on Jan. 2, will be filled by an appointment made by President Judge Roger Nanovic. No word on when the appointment will occur has been made public. The appointee, under the county code, will serve the remainder of Getz's unexpired term, which is four years.
At the meeting, in front of 25 county residents and officials, Getz read a letter, addressed to O'Gurek, that announced his retirement and spoke about the highlights of his 16-year career as commissioner.
"It's been a pleasure and an honor to serve as county commissioner for 16 years, eight of which I have served with you (O'Gurek) as the chairman," Getz read. "We can hold our heads high, knowing that we ran a clean campaign and always made decisions that we felt were best for Carbon County's residents.
"We were fortunate to be able to secure grant money to do much for our infrastructure, such as maintaining and improving our buildings, building the trail from the Nesquehoning bridge to the county parking, lot improvements to the railroad station and Josiah White Park, and buying Packerton Yards for industrial development. If the new majority commissioners can't see the potential for this property, I say gentlemen, open your eyes."
He thanked Smith for the years that they worked together and wished him luck on his retirement; and thanked Ozalas for what he's done to help the board over the years.
Getz also thanked the staff for the work that they have done to help the county run as smoothly as it does.
"We probably have one of the best staffs that there is working in county government, working here in Carbon County in the commissioners' office," he said.
Getz then addressed O'Gurek again about the possibility of him filling the vacancy; as well as Nothstein and Gerhard, who was present at the meeting.
"Billy, I hope that you will be my replacement because you certainly know county government. I look forward to my retirement, spending time with my wife (Carol) and being on my farm," he said. "Lastly, shame on Gerhard and Nothstein for all the lies in the fliers they sent out. It is great to live in a democratic country that we live in where we can say and do as we feel. Thank you Carbon County for the privilege and honor to serve as your county commissioner."
Some members of the audience applauded after Getz finished.
Emmett McCall, recorder of deeds, commended Getz for a job well done.
"Charlie was always 'people for the people' and what I mean is that whether it be the fire companies, Special Olympics, the basketball team that he sponsored for many years, Charlie Getz was there. He's an individual that I will never forget. As you leave today, one thing we will remember was the job you did here for the last 16 years as Carbon County commissioner. I wish you the best of health."
O'Gurek then addressed Getz and the audience, saying that he was thankful to have Getz as a supporter and as a friend.
"The people in this county have been fortunate to have a gentleman like Charlie Getz represent them for as long as he has. I wish you, Charlie, and your wife, Carol, nothing but the best regardless of where we go or what we do in life," O'Gurek said. "I want you to know, more than anything, your friendship has been something that has had an effect on me that I will take to my grave. You've always been there. I've seen you as a successful businessman, as a successful commissioner, and as a successful person.
"In is much as this is my last meeting as the chair, I would like to thank the county administrator for all of your work," O'Gurek continued. "This county wouldn't run as smoothly as it does without the guidance of you. I wish you a happy and prosperous retirement."
He thanked Ozalas for his friendship, support, and counsel.
"I remember one time Mike said to me, 'you know Bill, the seat you are sitting in is only rented,' and today those words ring true in that this county is much bigger than anyone of us individually, and certainly much bigger than all of us collectively. I wish to you nothing but health and happiness."
He also thanked Robert Crampsie, county controller; and Ronald Sheehan, county treasurer, for their service to the county and to the board.
"To be able to function like this county has in the past eight years without an increase in taxes - actually with a decrease one year as you know with the occupational tax to be able to do all those things is not one thing that Bill O'Gurek or Charles Getz did or any of us did individually. It's been what's been done here collectively. Our duties and responsibilities have been to lead and to get others to believe that we can do good for the taxpayers of this county if we work together. In the last eight years I hope we've been able to deliver to the taxpayers, a government to which they can be proud.
"I still believe there are many, many challenges ahead of us and certainly our endeavor to develop Packerton Yards business park is something that was born out of nothing more than wanting the best for our people and creating family-sustaining jobs so people can raise families here and stay here rather than having the exodus that we've been seeing in past decades. I ask the next board to keep that in mind, to take an approach of not saying 'we can't,' not saying 'the projects are dead in the water,' but to say 'we can.' This world is full of people who say they can't and I think if we're going to live together and be successful and make things better for people, our challenge is to say 'we can.'"
Some of the audience again applauded after O'Gurek finished his farewells.
Nothstein addressed his colleagues, hoping to set some records straight.
He noted that the grants used for the train station and Susquehanna Street building renovation projects were initially applied for under the previous administration, which was Republican.
"You're not the only ones applying for grants and trying to get whatever funding we can for this county," he said.
Nothstein then addressed the 2012 budget that was passed by Getz and O'Gurek and calls for 5 percent raises and a 1-mill tax decrease on real estate taxes. Nothstein and Gerhard will reopen the budget in January to review and make changes.
"Draining the general fund isn't wise," he said. "To deplete our budget the way it is without future planning; in one, three, five, 15 years, we need to plan for then. No one here wants to raise taxes to do any of these projects. We're going to be facing some challenging times in the future."
Tom Loughery, a resident of Jim Thorpe, agreed with Nothstein about the budget, saying that he hopes "something gets done" about changing the budget.
Nothstein then spoke of the vacancy on the board and if he could work with O'Gurek if O'Gurek is appointed by Nanovic.
"I certainly hope our president judge makes an appointment to have three commissioners sitting at this table that will be able to sit here and work together and not blame each other for the problems of this county," Nothstein said, continuing "If (appointing Bill) is the judge's wishes, I certainly hope we could work together despite what has gone on here over the last few months. It's a difficult position for the both of us, no matter what happens. I would not want to be in Judge Nanovic's shoes. This is a very difficult decision to make.
"I hope he takes his time and really thinks about who he's putting in and considers the voters," Nothstein added.
Nothstein then addressed the vacancies created by Smith and Ozalas.
He announced that Daniel Miscavage, the current solicitor of the county tax claim and tax assessment office, will take the county solicitor position, effective Jan. 3.
Nothstein said he looks forward to working with Miscavage and is thankful to Ozalas, who offered his assistance to the incoming solicitor.
As for the administrator position, Nothstein said a few people have shown interest but no one has been selected.
"I don't want to leave that position open too long," he said, adding that he will be asking the salary board on Tuesday afternoon, to create a position for an acting administrator. He said he has someone in mind for that position but did not name the person.