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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Updated: Tom Muller Sez No to Second Term

A thorn between two roses. Muller is flanked by his
beautiful wife and daughter, MJ (left) and Joy (right).
MJ is a volunteer with St. Thomas More, while
Joy is a standout field hockey player. 
Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller surprised and disappointed a group of over 50 supporters at Brookside Country Club last night when he announced he's decided against seeking re-election this year. This included three state representatives, a former state representative, two Lehigh County Commissioners and DA Jim Martin. Also on hand were most of Muller's cabinet. "I did not order them to be here, it's the free drinks that got them," he quipped.

He also introduced several Commissioner candidates running for District seats this year. In District One, it's Robert Elbich. He's a LU grad, after which he worked for Air Products and a cryogenics firm, and then launched two companies of his own based on patents that he secured. .He lives in Weisenberg Tp, where he serves on the Zoning Hearing Board. In District Two Three, he introduced Amy Zanelli. She is a Rutgers grad and lives in West Bethlehem. If elected, she will be Bethlehem's first second Commissioner in Lehigh County (Nick Englesson also served a term). She worked in child protective services in New Jersey and is now a realtor. She is also a former rollerblade announcer. In District Five, it's Coopersburg resident Mary Ann Nord, a James Madison and San Diego University grad who works in  intellectual property and national security for Leidos.

Noting that Democrats have a 31,000 voter edge in Lehigh, Muller said they gave both presidential and statewide candidates a clean sweep in the 2016 election. "It's time to bring that same broom to the Board of Commissioners," said Muller, referring to the nine persons who make up the county's legislative branch.

Muller said he's fortunate to have had his wife at his side for the past 30 years. After 40 years in the private sector, he never expected to serve as Director of Administration for another eight years for Don Cunningham and two interim county executives. He also had no idea he'd become a "full-fledged politician" and serve for four years as Executive. "The politics of the other side opened this door for me," he said. He enjoyed those four years "despite the political battling, the 30% pay cut, the frequent nights out, and the part I love, the endless chicken dinners."

In his four years as Executive, Muller tried to be accessible and get as much first hand knowledge from citizens as he could. He attended 20 municipal meetings a year, travelling to as many different communities as he could.

"Public safety is our top priority. Hamilton Crossings with a Costco is a reality. The County is significantly recommitted to farmland preservation. Good Shepherd is finally managing our Cedarbrook Nursing Home.Most of these accomplishments required overcoming the objections of a substantial block on the Board of Commissioners.

"We've also balanced the budget without tax increases despite the veto-proof Republican majority on the Board insisting on providing those "Happy Meal" tax cuts on the taxpayer's credit card. They did it just to adhere to what they thought was a campaign promise they made, but it was on the taxpayer's credit card because we had a budget deficit each time.

"As great as this chapter of my life has been and continues to be, it will come to an end this year, and I know this will come as a surprise to most of you."

Muller explained why he's decided to bow out. He has three sons in the Carolinas. He has two grandsons there "who I see too infrequently." When his daughter Joy graduates from Emmaus High School in 2019, he knows she will want to attend college outside of this area. "MJ and I then intend to close the Lehigh Valley section of our book and head south into retirement."

He's been encouraged to run anyway and then resign when he's ready to retire."I cannot in good conscience do that.What that would mean is going out and collecting contributions and collecting votes from people who think I'm running for four years, and I cannot serve for four years. I personally cannot do that."

Muller said he was unwilling to leave without finding someone who will represent the people as opposed to the "whims of a few wealthy contributors."

That someone is Phillips Armstrong, who was chairing a Whitehall Township meeting as Muller spoke, attempting to persuade his colleagues to adopt a resolution in support of gerrymander reform. Armstrong is a retired teacher and coach who ran unsuccessfully against Zach Mako for the state house. I thought then he was the best Democrat running in the Lehigh Valley.

Armstrong was also working on a proposal to impose campaign contribution limits on township candidates  Muller said that Commissioner Geoff Brace is working on a similar resolution in Lehigh,"which will probably be blocked by our Republican majority for painfully obvious reasons."

Muller said by not running, he can focus on Cedarbrook, which he claimed Commissioners have been kicking down the road for about three years. he said JB Reilly started digging a hole for the arena around the same time he started pushing Commissioners to do something about the Cedarbrook building.

Muller never strayed from the Way. He is giving up his public life but is keeping his honor. His absence will be keenly felt.  

Blogger's Note: Originally published 2/13/17 at 8:36 pm

Updated 10:30 am: A reader points out that Nick Englesson, who at that time was a resident of West Bethlehem, served as a Lehigh County Commissioner. 

Updated 4:12: I incorrectly stated one candidate is running in District Two when she is actually running in District Three.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is disappointing indeed. But I can understand, I am guessing he is at least of retirement age and wants to relax a bit. Because if he ran again he'd easily win.

Anonymous said...

8:54 said:

"if he ran again he'd easily win"


He's been dragging his feet on a decision on the county nursing home for his whole four years in office, and he's fought against every tax CUT the board passed.

Maybe you should re-read Bernie's one line post where he says Muller "disappointed a group of over 50 supporters."

As an incumbent, that's not the turnout you want for people expecting a re-election announcement.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Ed's looking to move up.

Anonymous said...

Good! He has padded that pension enough. Time for another new Corvette. You need a formal announcement to say I'm not running. Wow Now that is being full of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Boy did you call that one wrong! I respect Tom for not running again. It must be a tiring and mostly unfulfilling job. We could only wish that his counterpart in Northampton County will do the right thing and announce that he will not be running also. Unfortunately, he has too many personal mouths to feed in his administration who are mostly unqualified incompetents who couldn't make it as a fry cook if they lose their jobs.

Anonymous said...

It is largely a thankless job with long hours. There is life outside County Government. John Stoffa

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Boy did you call that one wrong!"

Completely! I was not alone.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Northampton County should have thanked you for your eight years of honest service, John. You accomplished a great deal and made the county a better place to live and work.

Anonymous said...

Lets be clear, evwn Percy Dougherty fought against the tax cut BECaUSE he knew it was with borrowed money and not sustainable. At the last minute, he agreed to party pressure and a one time rebate despite it was an election year gimmick. Those with higher ambitions cut/deferred program dollars at the same time they were discussing floating a bond for major iniatives. We have cities that borrow and spend and call a budget balanced. Here we have rebates w borrowed money. NOT Conservative princuples.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted three off topic and anonymous personal attacks aimed at John Stoffa. He is now a private citizen. Sign your name.

Anonymous said...

So Muller is leaving. One word for that, GOOD!

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor pitiful Musty. Despite his self-serving and fanciful tale, he knew he would be crushed in a race with Dean Browning. This guy was a charity case by Cunningham and kept on some of the old team for jobs.

Anonymous said...

Here is another job for Fed Ed. I'm surprised he didn't back his buddy Fed Ed. Say what you say about Tom, he is way better than slimy John Brown!

Anonymous said...

Last night’s “Campaign Kickoff” was a microcosm of Muller’s time in office – too long, rambling and without a clear purpose. Unable to put aside petty feuds or get through a speech without taking cheap shots at somebody, he has been his own worst enemy.

The byproduct of his warped view of issues, he’s consistently wrong on the facts. He’s been a one-man obstructionist on issues like the county nursing home, ignoring multiple, unanimous requests for complete information on all options. He has trouble working with others, even in his own party.

As far as taking credit for Costco and Hamilton Crossings, does he even remember that it was built without county tax dollars after the commissioners voted down the corporate welfare that he was promoting?

Maybe the real reason he's not running is that his former campaign manager, Mike Fleck, is booked elsewhere for the next few years.

Anonymous said...

Not sure you are correct about Bethlehem not having a commissioner. If memory serves, Nick Englesson was a commissioner for one term a few years back. He was from Bethlehem.

george schaller said...

Bernie,
the last comment or and all of fed ed's backers just might be thinking out of the white boxes built and just may have got off the county herbal wheel! There is much ado about the grooming process that many locals have there hands in and out to partake thereof? Muller's comment about the free drinks really hit the nail on the head about one of the many grooming tools tolerbly implimented.
REpublican redd
humanist by design and nor a party fovor

Anonymous said...

Did Fleck have a connection to the last Lehigh County exec election?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:03, You are absolutely correct and I stand corrected. My readers always catch me if I screw up factually. I will update my story again.

Anonymous said...

No connection to Fleck?

Then how do you explain all those payments to Fleck Consulting from Muller's Committee in the 2013 election?

I also believe Muller was the one who brought NE Revenue to do the delinquent tax collecting for the county. They were also caught up in the Fleck/Pawlowski fiasco.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I misunderstood your question. My apology. Fleck did run Muller's campaign, and it was probably the highlight of his career as a political consultant. After it was over, the MC did a flattering piece on him and it opened the door to many new clients and Fleck lost control. he probably did bring in NE Revenue, but I don't know that. I will have more to say about Fleck's influence with business and government soon.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said:

"Fleck did run Muller's campaign, and it was probably the highlight of his career as a political consultant. After it was over, the MC did a flattering piece on him and it opened the door to many new clients and Fleck lost control."


Uh, no, it was exactly the same campaign as Pawlowski, run simultaneously during the same election year. It featured many of the same outside-the-valley PAC's and donors that showed up on Pawlowski's report, a portion of which was likely being kicked back to Fleck in the form of "consulting fees".

Don't know if the FBI will end up pursuing Muller, but if not the one thing that might have saved him was that he had a board that would stand up to him, unlike Pawlowski.

Anonymous said...

The Morning Call, 2-2-2016, reported that federal subpoenas were served on Lehigh County apparently seeking info on delinquent tax collections. I was just curious if that record collection had gone any further.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Amy Zanelli is running for Lehigh County Commissioner in District 3, not District 2. This is the district seat being vacated by David Jones as he attempts to run for Mayor of Allentown.

https://www.facebook.com/amyz4district3

https://www.lehighcounty.org/Departments/Commissioners

Anonymous said...

McCarthy was from West Bethlehem when a county commissioner?

Anonymous said...

Ya gotta wonder if this guy will end up getting some sort of job from Cunningham again. Don gave him a landing spot first time around maybe he will again.

Anonymous said...

Armstrong should have been there. Missed opportunity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I completely disagree. His first priority is governing, and that is where he needed to be last night. Had he skipped a meeting for a political event, he'd be no better than 80% of the pols already in office.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" believe that Amy Zanelli is running for Lehigh County Commissioner in District 3, not District 2. This is the district seat being vacated by David Jones as he attempts to run for Mayor of Allentown."

That makes tow. If you find one more mistake, you can shoot me.

Anonymous said...

Ask Dan McNeil off the record what he thinks of Muller.

Anonymous said...

Congrats and enjoy life with your family

Anonymous said...

Maybe Sam the Scam Bennett should run for County Executive now. That would be fun.