|Barbara Stoffa will get her husband back after eight years|
As an 8 year old farm boy, John Stoffa was assigned the task of pulling ragweed from his father's cornfield. One was particularly troublesome, but the boy persisted and it finally came out.
That farm boy would go on to become Northampton County Executive. On December 12, he attended his last Council meeting as the County's highest elected official, finishing eight years in office. It was the first time he was accompanied by his wife, Barbara. "He would never let me come before," she explained.
Normally laconic during meetings, Stoffa itemized some of his accomplishments during his two terms in office. "Northampton County is a wonderful place to live," he explained. "Our job is to keep it that way." Stoffa, who provided an office to incoming Executive John Brown to help with the transition, wished his successor luck over the next four years. But Stoffa cautioned everyone against treating government like a business. He said good government occurs when people work together, like during an Amish barnraising. "They can do in one weekend what takes government a year," he said.
What did Stoffa do over the last eight years?
Basic maintenance. - Courthouse elevators that broke down nearly every day now operate flawlessly. Nursing home windows that had been leaking since the '70s, are now working properly. He fixed the cupola over the courthouse, and restored the building. At county nursing home Gracedale, where one oil tanker was needed every three days, Stoffa converted those furnaces to gas.
The Milides Building Purchase. - Located across the street from the courthouse, this purchase gave the County 60 additional parking spots. It is also home to the Elections Office and Controller.
Recycling. - When Stoffa first assumed office in 2006, the County did not recycle paper. Now there is single stream recycling as well as two annual events for the community.
|John Stoffa seems to recognize that guy.|
Archives. - Under a previous administration, the County demolished its state-of-the art archives building for a prison expansion. It was paying $100,00 per year to house its historical records in another County. But in April, a new archives building was dedicated in Forks Township, including climate-controlled high-density shelving and a public reading room.
New Corrections Policy. - "Build programs, not cells," said Stoffa, noting the increased use of treatment to stop the jail from becoming a revolving door. The recidivism rate, i.e. the rate at which offenders return to the County jail, hovered around 69% when Stoffa assumed office. That rate is now down to 35.9% at the jail, according to Corrections Supervisor Arnie Matos. That lower rate translates to saved county tax dollars. Stoffa noted over 400 people volunteer their time at the jail, now considered one of the best in the state.
West Easton Treatment Center. - This work release facility, which can house up to 100 inmates, is used as both a work release and treatment facility for low level drunk drivers.
Bridges. - Thanks to a $19.6 million bond floated by Council in July, the County can begin repairs on 16 of its most critical bridges over the next three years.
|Stoffa portrait includes courthouse cupola in background|
Retirement Fund. - The fund for County retirees has exploded from a low of $160 million to$328 million. Last year, it earned 17% in interest. Northampton County is also the first in the state to establish a separate trust for other post-employment benefits, called OPEB. That fund is at $24 million and generated 18.6% in interest last year.
Tax Hikes. - Aside from the half mill tax hike he promised before being elected in 2006, Stoffa proposed no tax increases during his eight years in office. But he believes they are a fact of life. "Raising taxes in small amounts is not the end of the world," he said.
Stoffa's Regrets. - Stoffa regretted not moving earlier on the swaption, a complicated financial deal he inherited from a previous administration that ended up costing the County $25 million. He called it a "cancerous sale." He never mentioned his failed sale of Gracedale, but in a speech to a statewide association of county commissioners earlier in the month, he said he rushed things.
After the meeting was over, his cabinet took him to see a portrait prepared by local artist Tom Burke. Stoffa initially refused to have a portrait done, then agreed if it could be done like a Picasso. He finally relented when a local artist was selected.
Stoffa now will resume his quest of building 500 birdhouses. He's at 282.