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From the Desk of Commissioner Candidate Randy Phiel

(10/1) Since beginning this series of articles for the Emmitsburg News Journal in June, I have reported on candidate dynamics in the Spring primary election; the legacy that we will leave by how we balance the rural quality of life that we embrace and economic stimulus we need in Adams County; the pending Adams County Radio Project; and last month I focused on several subjects including the need for Clean & Green oversight and fairness.

On Election Day November 8, each Adams County voter will have the opportunity to vote for two of the four remaining candidates for Adams County Commissioner. The Republican candidates are myself, (Randy Phiel), and Jim Martin. The Democratic candidates are Marty Qually and Paul Kellet. The three candidates obtaining the most votes will be seated January 1st as the new board of Adams County Commissioners. In the primary election, I was honored to receive the most votes of all ten primary candidates from both parties. After three candidates are chosen this November, there will be a completely new Board of County Commissioners for the first time since 1967. There is also a new appointed County Manager position as of last January, and for the first time, an elected County Controller will take office with the new Board of Commissioners in January.

What do these changes mean for Adams County from a practical standpoint? As previously stated, it has been almost 50 years since there were no sitting commissioners remaining in a transition to all new board members. Although Adams County residents indicated by their vote that they desired new leadership, the new board must be smart enough to understand what they donít know - and when they donít know it! I believe I have a diverse background of government experience, business experience, experience as a local elected official and education credentials; but also realize that every day is a learning experience. To counteract the negatives of not having on-the-job "commissioner experience", I believe there are certain initiatives that need to be undertaken before and after the newly-elected candidates take office.

Following the November 8 election, the new Board of Commissioners - utilizing their expertise, knowledge, experience and views while also taking advantage of other resources and input - should develop some Fundamental Operating Principals for managing and operating the County. These Fundamental Operating Principals should include primary goals, objectives and operating guidelines that incorporate past and present knowledge while planning for the future. Input for these basic guidelines should be generated from the Commissioners and by consulting with other sources prior to January 1st to get ahead of the administrative curve. I would advocate that the Commissioners, the County Manager, the new County Controller, Department Managers and a cross section of selected community representatives examine and refine the plan after January 1st. The plan should then be vetted to various focus groups and community forums from different areas of the county for feedback. This three-step process would hopefully produce a practical and public operating document that reflects the viewpoint of the majority of our community. Within less than 90 days of being seated, this operating document should be completed and made available and communicated to the public.


The transition of the new Board will also hopefully be eased by County Manager Al Penska and the staff in the commissionerís office. Penska, a former Cambria County Controller and township manager, was hired last January after an intense selection process and will have one year of experience under his belt. It is my firm belief and practical experience that an effective and experienced county manager will provide both financial and operational dividends in a Class 5 county with more than 500 employees and a budget of approximately $50 million. Among many other oversight and policy tasks, it will be the responsibility of the new Board of Commissioners to assure that the County Manager position results in the intended benefits.

On a related note, I was surprised and somewhat taken back to learn from previous and current county commissioners that even before the onslaught of reassessment appeals and a county manager, more than 50% of the commissioners time was spent dealing with personnel issues. In my opinion, our county commissioners need to make better use of their time in numerous ways as county leaders. It is easy to fall into a fortress mentality Ė but you cannot keep your finger on the pulse of the County by spending all your time inside the walls of the courthouse.

Another key transition resource will be the new County Controller, Steve Renner. Renner will run uncontested in November because the Adams County Democratic Committee did not submit a name to the Elections & Voter Registration office by the deadline of September 19. According to Adams County Democratic Chairman Rodger Lund, "The Democratic Committee had interviewed a number of qualified candidates, but it was not the right time for them to run." Steve Renner is a life-long county resident from Littlestown with significant management experience, financial experience and professional resources. Steve has already begun to study and learn the county financial landscape in relation to the Controller position. After eight years as a CPA in private practice, Steve worked at Gettysburg Hospital for 25 years as the President, CFO and CEO. After guiding Gettysburg Hospitalís merger with Wellspan, Steve Renner became President of Adams County Economic Development where he enjoyed success for four years before taking a step back and some time off. Generally, the Adams County Controller will be the financial watchdog for the county. It is my belief that with Steve Renner on board, the Adams County Commissioners, staff and residents are getting not only solid financial oversight, but also will get an excellent managerial and financial adviser with many professional resources and attributes If elected, I look forward to working with Steve for the benefit of our community.

It is my view that both the development and execution of the Fundamental Operating Principals should be communicated to the residents in a straightforward and understandable manner. That standard should be the precursor to continuous reasoning, disclosure and communication during this Board of Commissionersí entire tenure. I do not expect that every resident will agree with every decision that the new Board of Commissioners makes, but their reasoning and the facts involved in making a decision should be made available to every resident. Good communication is a cure for many ills. There is no doubt that a learning curve of some degree will take place with three new commissioners. I believe it is the new commissionerís responsibility, as well as the rest of the county staff, to reduce that curve as much as possible!

I would like to conclude by commending and thanking our emergency responders for their service during this especially volatile September in Adams County. Flooding, closed roadways, water rescues, providing shelter and pumping basements were the order of the day. As a former thirty-year professional emergency responder, I am especially proud of these folks and honored to be the only endorsed candidate by the Adams County Fire Chiefs, Police Chiefs and Adams County Volunteer Emergency Services Association. With discussions involving emergency service funding in Adams County guaranteed to escalate, letís remember the September 2011 flooding as part of that discussion.

Please feel free to view my website at or email me at You may call me at 717-334-7097. Donít forget to mark November 8th on your calendar and exercise your right and privilege to vote for the person or party of your choice.

Fall is a great time of year in Adams County. Get out there and enjoy it. See you both weekends at the National Apple Harvest Festival!

Read other articles from Adams County Commissioners