York County once again hires an elections director with no experience running elections

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The York County Board of Commissioners has found its new elections director — one with a long partisan history in York County.

A campaign photo from Julie Haertsch's campaign for the York County Clerk of Courts.

Julie Haertsch will serve as the county's director of voter registration.

She's run for county offices as a Republican but brings no experience running elections to the office. She has also contributed money to the political campaigns of President Commissioner Julie Wheeler and others.

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None of the York County commissioners responded to requests for comment. On Wednesday, county spokesman Ted Czech refused to make Haertsch available for an interview, saying that she wasn't interested in being interviewed and that she stated she "just wants to get to work." 

In a written statement, Haertsch said, “I have always felt that public service was important. I think it’s an opportunity to put good out in the world.”

The appointment follows a series of elections controversies, including a disastrous primary in which many polling places ran out of ballots. The previous elections director, Steve Ulrich, similarly had no elections experience when he was hired. Prior to his hiring, he worked in athletics.

Haertsch worked for 16 years at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission before her retirement in 2017.

More:Julie Haertsch, endorsed by York County GOP, running for clerk of courts

More:County has two candidates for elections director, but neither has experience

She contributed $100 directly to President Commissioner Julie Wheeler in 2019, according to campaign finance reports. Also in 2019, she contributed $3,160 in total to the York County Republican Committee as well as $345 total to the York County Young Republicans.

In a written statement, Wheeler highlighted what she called Haertsch's "organizational and leadership skills."

“We are committed to continuous process improvement with our elections," Wheeler said.

Julie Haertsch speaking in 2019. The York GOP caption reads "Julie Haertsch, Endorsed Candidate for York County Clerk of Court."

In 2017, Haertsch ran for county controller as a Republican, losing to current office holder Greg Bower. Then, in 2019, she ran for clerk of courts, losing to current office holder Dan Byrnes. Haertsch also ran as a Republican during that race, receiving the endorsement of the York County GOP.

Pennsylvania campaign finance reports show Haertsch seeking a state representative seat as a Republican in 2006 and a member of the Republican State Committee in 2010. Her candidacy for state representative was withdrawn.

During the 2019-2020 election cycle, Haertsch gave $500 to the Pennsylvania Victory Network, a super PAC that dedicated itself to preventing then-Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, from winning a House seat. DePasquale lost to Republican Rep. Scott Perry.

Haertsch also donated $130 to Scott Wagner's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign.

More:Steve Ulrich leaves York County elections office for a new job

More:York County GOP: New elections director needs to be fired

In a news release, the county Democratic Party noted the hypocrisy of Wheeler hiring an elections director with no experience — and a campaign donor.

"This level of hypocrisy is astounding," the organization said, in a written statement.

In their release, the Democrats call for an investigation into the hiring process, claiming that other candidates were weeded out or dropped out due to the "toxic nature" of the Elections Office.

"The standards by which the county GOP held the previous director should be upheld in this case," the release reads.

The York County GOP did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the release, Haertsch's first day will be Feb. 23. Her salary will be $80,000 as confirmed by Czech. Deputy Director Anne Mendoza did not immediately return a request for comment.

Muhlenberg College political science professor Chris Borick said Wednesday that as positions like elections director gain a higher profile, a spotlight shines on individuals that have previous connections like Haertsch has with Wheeler.

"They have a pretty high standard to rise to because of the perception that they're not necessarily a fair arbiter," Borick said. "So what you've got in situations like this is you're not going to disqualify people per se because of political engagement in the past, but certainly every step they take in this position is going to be examined in relationship with that past." 

These types of scenarios, Borick said, are where the public will be hyper vigilant for any potential biases that are displayed.

This article was updated to clarify that York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler was not personally involved in the hiring of previous elections chief Steve Ulrich.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.