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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meet Northampton County's Tom Harp

From time to time, Deputy Northampton County Administrator Tom Harp is attacked on this blog as a John Stoffa crony, a do-nothing administrator who is only here because of his friendship with the county executive. These complaints are always posted anonymously. But they sound suspiciosuly like the rants I've already heard from a bitter former Reibman administrator, Bob Daday.

Daday hates Stoffa. On election night, he submitted a resignation letter to then Exec Glenn Reibman, claiming his "principles, values and ethics" would be incompatible with someone like Stoffa. But guess what? If he quit, he'd be ineligible for unemployment. So right before Stoffa came on board, Daday persuaded Reibman to "fire" him. When Stoffa discovered Daday's letter, he challenged the unemployment.

Daday had a radio show at the time, and was already lashing out regularly at Stoffa, Ron Angle, and for reasons that still elude me, Morning Call columnist Bill White. When the unemployment flap hit the papers, Daday quickly left his radio show, claiming he would be spending all his time at Attorney John Karoly's office. He was embarrassed.

But the rants have continued here. Always anonymous. Always mean-spirited. Often blatant fabrications. For all I know, these slams could be the work of someone else. But I find it hard to believe more than one person could be that goofy. A target of these ill-tempered arrows is Tom Harp. I owe it to him to set the record straight.

He's a grandfather, a very proud one, too. When I walked into his office yesterday, the first thing he did was show me two pictures of his 8 year-old grandson, a heavy hitter in Catty, who is missing one of his front teeth. That makes him look even tougher. Tom throws little plastic golf balls at his grandson, which this slugger nails with a fierce-looking, orange-colored bat. He's playing Fall ball this year.

Tom grew up in Bethlehem, graduating from Liberty ('67) and Moravian ('71). After that, he started a long and distinguished career in human services. He began by working with the developmentally disabled in White Haven. During his 8 years there, he picked up a Master's degree in Counseling from the University of Scranton.

Tom returned to the Lehigh Valley as a counselor in Allentown's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, helping people with disabilities find work. He was promoted to Supervisor and eventually became the District Administrator, overseeing a staff of 35 people in four different counties. He ended his 35 years in human services as the state's bureau director.

Over this time, Tom got to know Stoffa, who then headed Human Services in both Northampton and Lehigh County. Stoffa recruited him to join the Allentown Kiwanis, which does a lot of work for downtown Allebntown kids with youth soccer, the Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army and some arts groups. Once retired, Tom intensified his work with the Kiwanis and even joined the board at the LV Center for Independent Living.

Stoffa, who had avoided filling the Deputy Director of Administration position in an effort to save the county some money, soon found that he and his staff were overwhelmed. So he ended up recruiting Tom again, but this time to work for Northampton County. Tom accepted a rather low-paying job to help a friend, and this is how he describes Stoffa. "He has the qualities an elected official should have. He's honest. He's a straight shooter. He cares about people. He's very level-headed. He thinks things out. You are attracted to people you can respect."

So just what does Tom do at his do-nothing job?

* He's the county's risk loss coordinator. That eats up half of his time, and the county gets a $8000 annual reduction in its liability policy as a result. He also helps prepare the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for all fourteen insurance policies.

* He's the county's point man for safety, methodically attacking health and safety priorities. He is currently engineering a program to get county workers certified in CPR and the use of a defibrillator. He's also formulating an EMS emergency action plan.

* He writes the county newsletter, which is only distributed internally for now. He tells me a newsletter may soon be made available for the general public, published on the county's web page.

* He is the county's liaison with its thirty-eight municipalities and four Councils of Government (COG). He attends all the COG meetings, which are conducted after hours.

* He is the county's Act 32 coordinator, and is currently setting up the initial meeting for the appointment of a single tax collector.

* He is the county's conduit on the Bachmann Publick House, the county's oldest building. Currently, he is coordinating a transfer of this treasure to the Northampton County Historical Society and Lafayette College.

* Naturally, with his background, he's the county's disability specialist, and is working on a way to make it easier for the disabled to access the courthouse.

* He drafts and researches the issues for county proclamations.

* He initiated and administers the county's prescription drug program.

* He prepared and regularly updates a Directory of County Services.

* He fills in for Stoffa at meetings the Executive is unable to attend.

One thing Tom is not is political. "I don't want to be part of that," he tells me. Clearly, the County is getting its money worth from this guy, described by John Stoffa as a "joy" to be around. If this is an example of cronyism, we could use a few more just like him. He's somebody's grandfather. He's here to help. He works hard. The anonymous shots Tom gets here are totally out of line.


Anonymous said...

This was very interesting. I hope you feature other people like this in the future.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Great suggestion. I'll try and do that. Many of the great people in local government prefer to remain behind the scenes like Tom. In fact, he mentioned that to me.

Anonymous said...

Nice fluff piece. I bet he waers fabulous aftershave as well.

So now you distingusih between good cronnies and bad cronnies. That is mighty fair of you.
In his campaign, Stoffa said the job was unecessary and a waste of money. Never a waste if you can help a friend.

By the way I know many grandfathers who are nice guys.

Not so casual observer said...

Tom Harp is a good man. He is someone that the Councils of Government can count on to keep open the flow of information and cooperation between the COG Municipalities and the COunty. He comes to every meeting and seems to always have something of importance and value for our benefit.

Thank you Bernie for pointing this out. Those of us who are COG members appreciate what he is doing

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:24, After all the viocious and mean-spirited attacks that come from you, I thought it necessary and fair to point out exactly what Tom does.

Stoffa did think he could keep the job vacant and did so for 2 years, but he was overwhelmed and needed the help. He said that himself. If it were just a crony job, he would have filled it right away.

Now go file an unemployment claim.

Anonymous said...

This would be interesting for all....a lot of people have already formed opinions about Dertinger, McClure, Reibman, but don't know the details about their background, where they came from, how they got involved in govt... etc...I find that interesting.

Anonymous said...

I just read an article on Yahoo that said obese people have degenerative brain loss.

After seeing your true picture, and then in person, I believe we can now logically explain your stupidity.

Were you fat when you had your license to practice law revoked?

Anonymous said...

anon 1158 am
My God man have you no dignity ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's called cyber-bullying, which only makes me look good and anonymous trolls look bad.

Marc said...

Nice post Bernie. There are a lot of good people in public service, and Tom appears to be one of them. Naysayers and do nothings will complain about something. And when they find nothing substantial, they make it up. Keep up the good work and Kudos to Tom, and to Stoffa for finding a good match to help Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Bernie. With all the pot shots aimed at the county's administration it's refreshing to see dedicated professionals still willing to work in a maelstrom of controversy. Tom is a true "civil servant" who understands that his main allegiance is to the citizens of Northampton County. They elected John Stoffa and he hired Tom. Both would be the first to admit that their true "bosses" are the citizens of the county.

Anonymous said...

After Angle of course.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dude, give it up. The people have already decided overwhelming that they want Stoffa and resent anonymous assholes like you.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post. Tom Harp is an example of a hard worker that doesn't get much time in the spotlight and keeps to himself not looking for medals or plaques. I'm glad that his experience and responsibilities are celebrated and I look forward to profiles of others.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll do that. I'll try to get one per week with different government officials who work behind the scenes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mrs. Harp. He may not get a plaque but he does get a nice smoch on the buttocks courtesy of Ohare.

Minister of Propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Most employees have never even heard of this guy, except that he was an old Stoffa friend that got a job for another retirement check.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Since when is it a requirement that employees have to hear of a guy being hired? You're ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa pul;ls multiple pensiomm checks and so does Harp, so what. They both are lifetime government employees and thats what happens. They care of each other.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see, oh crazy one. Well, then I suggest you lead the charge to revoke all pensions earned by public employees. Private employees, too. After that, I want you to raid the pension fund of existing employees.

Whatever pension Stoffa and Harp get, they EARNED them. But since you tried to take unemployment illegally, you wouldn't know much about earning things.

Anonymous said...

That whole Administration is a joke except for maybe John Conklin.
I am still wondering why you love them all so much. hmmmmmmmm

Bernie O'Hare said...

I've just set forth Tom's credentials. When you make that kind of a slam that is so obviously untrue, you diminish yourself.

Anonymous said...

11:17, you are right. Most other gov officials agree with you. This is a pretty lame group. Soon you will see the cracks in the form of unmet problems.

Anonymous said...

Tom is a great guy and deserves some limelight. So many people run around pretending that they are important and doing important things. Here's a guy who quietly goes about getting things done.

Stoffa is lucky.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand the fuss and why people are so ticked off over Stoffa hiring an old friend. Every Executive has given jobs to old friends and Stoffa has done the same thing, so what.

If Stoffa wants to help out a friend with a job thats his business.