About 200 of Northampton County's 1,170 retirees feasted on ham and chicken during their semi-annual luncheon on Tuesday at the Northampton Community Center. They had reason to be happy. John Stoffa, their representative on the Retirement Board, reported that their pension is standing tall at $333 million. It is also 84% funded, which is better than in most counties or municipalities. John Brown's proposed 2016 Budget makes no changes that could adversely affect them. Retirees are still forming a nonprofit corporation to be prepared if the need arises. "We want to make sure we protect ourselves," explained former Executive Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried. But there was no protection from the candidates and one bottom-feeding blogger. They came, not for the chicken or the ham, but for votes.
|Frank Flisser (L) with Glenn Reibman (R)|
See that empty seat next to judicial candidate Vic Scomillio? That's where I sat my fat ass, right at the main table with all the candidates. I ate the fruit cocktails intended for both Jerry and Stoffa,and also short-stopped Scomillio and Controller Steve Barron when the meat tray was passed around. They need to lose weight. In addition to stealing their food, I also had an opportunity to get some free counseling from Lori Heffner, who is running to succeed Lamont McClure against some stiff competition from John Cusick.
Lori is a psychotherapist, and I think everyone agrees that Northampton County Council could use one of those. "I did love my mom," Sam Murray assured her before she could probe him with any questions. I asked her to write me a prescription for Valium or medical marijuana, but she's not that kind of psychotherapist. Mainly, the small talk focused on the Ten Commandments that keep disappearing from the wall at County Council.
Barron blamed Ron Angle, but my money's on God. I think he took one look at the three foot thick employee policies manual and decided to add several thousand commandments. He should have it back to Mat Benol in a month or two.
After lunch, candidates who were there were given the opportunity to say a few words about themselves.
Vic Scomillio kept his remarks brief. He told retirees he has practiced law for 18 years and has tried ten homicide and death penalty cases, which require a special certification. He's a former President of the NorCo Bar Association, was the County Solicitor and ia a partner in the Holzinger, Harak and Scomillio law firm in the City of Bethlehem. He, his wife Molly and son live in Palmer Township, where he is active in scouting and coaches youth sports, including lacrosse. He attends St. Jane's Catholic Church, and would like to extend Northampton County's problem solving courts to veterans.
Sam Murray has been practicing law for 32 years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a judicial officer in Northampton County Juvenile Court. "I actually felt like I made a difference," he said of that experience, which he now wants to continue as a judge. He said he was gratified to see so many of the people he worked with in Easton, and called county workers the "front line" for people in need of human services, from Children and Youth to the Department of Aging. He described each of his four children , of whom he is rightfully very proud and then paused to admit, "I'm bragging about my kinds. Like Vic, Sam was heavily involved in youth sports and took a Lehigh Little League team to the National Regional finals in the world series. He, his wife Margie and his four children live in Hanover Township.He attends Notre Dame Church in Bethlehem.
Scott Parsons is finishing his first term on Northampton Council. He represents the northern tier, which is very nearly the entire northern half of the County. Last year, he won the Northampton County workhorse award from this blog for his near 100% attendance record at both Council and Committee hearings. He called himself a :"working class guy." He described county government as a service industry. "The people in this room made that happen," he said of the retirees, but added that under Executive John Brown, "We've had some trying times."
Parsons' Republican opponent, Matt Dietz, was not at the luncheon. He may have been unaware of the event or that he was welcome, so his absence should not be considered a slight.
Lori Vargo Heffner is a political newcomer, and I threw her off when i started snapping pictures of her as she spoke. She actually has two master's degrees, one in counseling and the other in organizational development. She is a strong advocate of keeping Gracedale, the County-owned nursing home, in public hands. "We need to protect what's good in the County," she said, alluding to a recent push by Republicans to study privatization.
Two weeks ago, Republican Seth Vaughn introduced a resolution to study the privatization of Gracedale, but quickly pulled it without explanation.
Heffner's opponent is former Council member John Cusick. He was absent, but like Dietz, may have been unaware of the event or that he was welcome.
Controller Steve Barron started his brief remarks by stating that I'd break my camera taking pictures of him. I offered to get my wide angle lens, and he correctly retorted that "I've lost more weight than you, buddy." He stated that being Controller has been "the most wonderful experience of my life,:" but admitted to "wearing my passion on my sleeves sometimes." He has butted heads with Democratic Executive John Stoffa as well as Republican Executive John Brown, but stated that the people in that room should know he has always been "fair" and "professional" when he or his staff have conducted audits of their departments.
Barron's opponent, Council member Hayden Phillips, was definitely invited to this event, but obviously had a prior engagement. From what I've seen of him, I know he would have attended if he could..
In two weeks, you will have an opportunity to see these candidates yourselves in debates at both Gracedale and the courthouse.
Above you will see three of the plates of chicken and ham I consumed.
The man who puts this together twice every year is former Executive Jerry Seyfried, who really should be called Jerry Service.