McClure, whose interest in Northampton County government goes back for two decades, is originally from coal cracker country. He graduated from Wilkes and Duquesne and had a great thing going with the distinguished Post and Schell law firm. Then he met John Morganelli. McClure worked on Morganelli's state AG race, forming a great friendship that lasts to this day. McClure liked it here, stuck around and began the private practice of law in Bethlehem.
I first met him many years ago. I listened to him announce his candidacy for county council, during which he bashed the bastard who dared sue the county over its $110 million megabond. That bastard was me. So after his presser, I introduced myself.
McClure served on County Council for ten years. During that time, he stood out as a tireless advocate for Gracedale, the county's nursing home. At a time when people like myself were advocating that it be sold, he argued we had a "moral obligation" to keep it.
He was right. I came around after seeing how much Gracedale employees really do care about the residents.
McClure came into his own when former Executive John Brown made severe cuts to the medical benefits for county workers. He, along with then Controller Steve Barron, fought every inch that Brown tried to take away from workers. When Brown paid exorbitant raises to some of his favorites without getting permission from Council, Barron and McClure exposed him.
McClure also discovered that former Executive Brown had secret plans to relocate the jail at Gracedale. He exposed them, forcing Brown to retreat.
After a rather convincing election, he brought in a nearly all-female cabinet and worked hard to re-establish county transparency, something that was missing under Brown. He restored medical benefits for employees and then went to work on capital solutions in a way that would require no tax hike.
He managed to buy the Human Services Center, but through some nifty financing suggested by Barron, he managed a deal under which the state is still paying the lion's share of the cost. With the money he saved in this deal, he was able to build a state of the art forensic center near Gracedale. This has been on the county's wish list since Northampton County was a county, but McClure did it. He has eased the parking problems at the courthouse by purchasing the Milides building across the street and converting it into a much needed parking lot.
His construction projects have been successful because he recruited Charles Dertinger, a project manager for numerous major projects in NYC, as his Administrator. Dertinger wears a bow tie, says "Good Day!" and drinks weak tea. Don't let that fool you. He's a proper bastard. Like it or not, every county needs one.
He steered the county through a state mandate to purchase new voting machines with voter verified paper trails. When the first election with this new system was a disaster, he threw everything he had into it. The result is that the last two elections under an energetic elections office, have been major successes. Registrar Amy Cozze made sure NorCo was the first in the state to report its results.
When the pandemic hit, McClure was one of the last Executives to close the county's doors and among the first to reopen them. He was the driving force behind bringing the National Guard to Gracedale and was at the forefront of universal testing at the jail and nursing home. He also established a grant program for small businesses. The County has awarded $8.779 million in CARES Act grants to 673 small businesses over three rounds of applications, and is working on a fourth round to go out by the end of the year.
Oh, by the way, his three budgets have reduced spending and called for no tax hikes while fully funding open space.
It's an enviable record, setting him apart as one of the best Executives since the inception of home rule.
Is it perfect? No. He's been a vocal critic of some bicounty agencies, and has advocate unsuccessfully thus far for more investment in Northampton County. But it's his job to advocate for his county.
I doubt he will face a primary opponent. In the general, he may face a rematch against Brown (he hopes) or someone who passes Lee Snover's Trump litmus test. With a $161,000 warchest, the power of the incumbency and a good record, he'll be hard to beat.
McClure, a resident of Bethlehem Tp, is married to Deputy DA Sandra McClure. They have a son, Luke, who is a Varsity swimmer at Freedom High School.