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York County overhauls hiring process after elections director backlash

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

York County recently overhauled its process for hiring department directors and deputy directors to include input from department employees and the county's executive staff.

The change came after the York County Republican Committee publicly harangued the county for hiring Steve Ulrich, a former collegiate athletics administrator, as director of the Department of Elections and Voter Registration in January.

County officials would not confirm that the hiring change was a result of the backlash, and York County spokesman Mark Walters said there's no indication of any change to Ulrich's position.

"As new director and deputy director positions come up, we will continue to review the hiring process," York County Commissioner Julie Wheeler said in a written statement Monday. "It is extremely important that we identify and investigate suitability for these positions, specifically prospective directors and deputy directors, appropriately.”

Ulrich had no prior experience working in elections, but county officials have said the skills he used to lead an NCAA Division III athletic conference were transferable to lead and manage the elections department.

In her statement Monday, Wheeler said the county's improved vetting processes for department directors were implemented in the search that, this past week, resulted in the hiring of Matthew Hobson as director of the York County 911 Center.

The search committee for Hobson included two York County 911 employees along with representatives from local police and fire departments and emergency medical service companies.That's a change from the county's previous process. 

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Hobson worked previously as executive director of New River Valley Emergency Communications Regional Authority in Christiansburg, Virginia. Before that, he was the communications director for police, fire and emergency medical service calls in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.

Hobson will take over Monday, Feb. 10, as director with a salary of $105,000. He will replace former director Jacqui Brininger, who resigned in October.

In comparison, the search committee for the elections director included only county administrator Mark Derr, Deputy Controller Tyler Chronister and two people from the Human Resources department, Walters said. The committee reviewed the applications and sent recommendations to the county commissioners for further review.

Elections department employees were not involved in that process, Walters said.

Ulrich took over as elections director Jan. 10 with a salary of $64,092.

He was one of three applicants for the elections director job, former York County Commissioner Chris Reilly has said. Both of the other applicants had some form of experience in elections, but one dropped out because of salary requirements.

The other candidate was Patrick Schiding, who told The York Dispatch last month that he has served as a Democratic inspector and judge of elections in York Township's 4th Precinct, Ward 2, since 2009.

Ulrich's first election on the job was the Jan. 14 special election to fill a vacant seat in the state's 48th Senate District.

No issues were reported during the special election. The next election Ulrich will oversee is the April 28 presidential primary.

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