Q&A: York County commissioner candidates talk Office of Children, Youth & Families


Five candidates — two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent — are vying for three open seats on the York County Board of Commissioners in the November election.

Party officials said this year is likely the first time in county history that five candidates will appear on the municipal election ballot.

Republican candidates are incumbent Chris Reilly and health activist Susan Byrnes. Democrats are incumbent Doug Hoke and York City councilman Henry Nixon. Incumbent Steve Chronister is running as an independent.

In 2016, when those elected take office, the president commissioner will make $89,730 annually, and the other two commissioners will be paid $86,525 each. The municipal election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

As part of The York Dispatch's ongoing election coverage, we posed three questions to the candidates. Their responses to one question will be published each week leading up to the election.

Question: The York County Office of Children, Youth & Families has seen a roughly 75 percent increase in reports of suspected child abuse and neglect through August. Should the county increase its allocation to the agency to increase staffing? Why or why not?

Susan P. Byrnes, Republican

Age: 64

Family: Husband, Randy, daughters Katie and Kristy, son Dan and three grandchildren

Occupation: Community volunteer

Education: R.N., associate degree Penn State University, honorary doctorate of humane letters York College

Community involvement: Founder of Byrnes Health Education Center, president of Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden, president of York County Veterans Outreach

Answer: The answer lies with the leaders of the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families. They are the professionals closest to the needs of our children and youth. The board of county commissioners should provide oversight of their requests for money and then review the effectiveness of their implementation and decisions.

If the directors of this office believes they can better respond to and create actions to address this increase in reports of suspected child abuse, then there may be justified reasons for increased staffing.

Christopher B. Reilly, Republican

Age: 53

Family: Wife, Lisa, and children Patrick, William and Claire

Occupation: County commissioner

Education: Master of Arts from the University of Maryland

Community involvement: Member of HACC-York Advisory Council and York County Parks Charitable Trust board

Answer: Plans are already underway to increase (children, youth & families) staffing levels. I am committed to doing whatever is necessary to restore the agency to a full license.

Steve Chronister, Independent

Age: 62

Family: Wife, Julie, and three grown children

Occupation: York County commissioner

Education: Graduate of York Catholic High School, PGA of America

Community involvement: None at this time

Answer: This is systemic problem that needs to be addressed at the root of the problem. Education, Education, Education. We can only increase staffing if we receive enough funding from the state budget. One thing that we really should improve on is the salary structure for county caseworkers who probably have the most difficult job of any profession.

Doug Hoke, Democrat

Age: 64

Family: Single

Occupation: York County commissioner

Education: West York Area High School, bachelor's degree in history and political science from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri

Community involvement: South Central Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, York County Convention and Visitor Bureau, Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, Volunteer at Aseracare Hospice, St. Stephens UCC

Answer: This is an important issue. I am thankful that more individuals are aware of the importance of reporting neglect and abuse of children in York County. I fully support the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families.

Henry Nixon, Democratic

Age: 67

Family: Wife, Barbara, three children and a foster son

Occupation: York City Council

Education: bachelor's degree, Gettysburg College

Community involvement: Community Progress Council, Leadership York, York Symphony Orchestra, Rotary Club of York

Answer: County government has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of its residents. In its own words, the mission of Children, Youth & Families is, "All children have the right to be protected from physical neglect and abuse, including sexual victimization, and from emotional neglect and abuse."

In an ever-increasing climate of child abuse and neglect, we must act to protect them. We cannot allow our future generations to be damaged through benign neglect.

While our current commissioners tell us the county is in good hands, children are being maimed for a lifetime, even murdered. We must provide sufficient case workers and clerical staff to support them. I will refer back to my business experience: an independent audit of county programs may reveal cost-saving measures that can be applied to children, youth & families.

With all due respect to our current commissioners, they have not seen to their most important obligation: to provide for the health and safety of every York County resident.

— Reach Greg Gross at