chief executive and administrative official of the County," vested with broad powers. John Stoffa has nearly finished his sixth year in office. He has kept the County on a sound fiscal footing, instituted a successful, pay-as-you-go open space program, and has worked hard to establish programs that treat criminal offenders like human beings instead of animals. Most importantly, he has restored integrity to his office, refusing to continue the usual pay-to-play games with County employees and vendors. Some of them, who prefer patronage to professionalism, will never forgive him.
Although his campaign to sell Gracedale failed, he accepted the will of the people and brought private management to the County-owned nursing home. More importantly, after decades of neglect, he embarked on a $20 million program of capital improvements at this nursing facility, funding it with energy savings instead of a costly bond.
In the minds of many people, the last election was a referendum on John Stoffa. His two strongest allies on Council - Ron Angle and Mike Dowd - were both defeated. His strongest critic - Lamont McClure - may have been re-elected. I don't buy it. Dowd was swept out of office by Panto's mayoral contest. That had nothing to do with Stoffa. Ron was consumed by a perfect storm of negative news articles over the course of a year. Those had nothing to do with Stoffa, either.
Nevertheless, the sharks are circling again. They smell blood. Who will run for County Exec?
Lisa Boscola - the Lemon Shark. Like the Lemon, Lisa is yellow in color, with a bright blond mane that has blinded many of her prey. She's swimming in the Harrisburg aquarium right now, where she has served for two terms in the state house and is in her fourth term as a state senator.
What many people forget is that she got her start in Northampton County, where she served as a Deputy Court Administrator. Running for Exec would enable her to add another pension for her financial planning.
Because she has no real experience as an Executive, and her own behavior in the state legislature has been erratic at times, I believe she'd be a terrible Executive, and would bring back all the pay-to-play practices made famous by Glenn Reibman. But if she does decide to run, game over. She'll win, and I doubt anyone in the Democratic party will challenge her.
John Callahan - the Blue Shark. Like the Blue, Callahan is an extremely fast swimmer who's hard to track. So at this point, it's really unclear what he's doing, if anything. But don't kid yourself. As Tony Simao can attest, blue sharks can be extremely dangerous and are known for numerous attacks. Their favorite food is squid, served regularly at Mama Nina's.
Ron Heckman - the Prehistoric Shark. Every time an Exec race comes up, Ron's name is mentioned. But he never runs. I'm pretty sure he's extinct.
Rich Grucela - the Nurse Shark. Although his wife may kill him, Grucela recently told The Morning Call, he'd consider running if Gracedale remains an issue with a "horrendous" or "drastic" downturn. Rich originally comes from the ranks of local government. He presided over County Council between 1987 and 1990.
John Cusick, the Dogfish Shark. - He's still lurking in the reefs, ready to strike. Despite his ambitious nature, it's unlikely Cusick would be a very effective candidate. With his slightly poisonous spine, Cusick has been known to stick it to several of his colleagues on Council, usually Republicans, from Peg Ferraro to Ron Angle. Like the Dogfish, Cusick can change colors to blend in with his surroundings, a useful trait for a pol.
Ron Angle, the Megamouth Shark. - Soon after kicking him out of office, it's very likely that Slate Belt voters will recognize they've made a big mistake. But like the Megamouth, it's just as likely that Angle will be elusive.
One of the Gracedale Goons, Clown Shark. - One of them will run if he or she can remain anonymous.
Sal Panto, the Great White. - Of all the candidates mentioned, the only one who has actually been successful as an administrator is Easton Mayor Sal Panto. Unlike Boscola, Callahan or even Grucela, he won't bring in the usual County cronies. He swims alone. Right now, he's busy turning Easton around. But I think I've just heard that music. It's the same music I hear whenever I'm on a toilet.
I think we're gonna' need a bigger boat.