OPED: Byrnes updates York on county government

Susan P. Byrnes
York County President Commissioner

First, thank you for your cards and kind words of condolences following the death of my father, Charlie Petron, in March. He was a good guy who taught me to work hard, be honest and give back to your community. York County lost another valued World War II veteran.


In the past 18 months as president commissioner, I’ve seen the dedication and leadership abilities of many of our 50 department heads and elected officials. I’ve engaged hundreds of the hardworking employees who serve our youth, elderly, veterans and those in the judicial system. I’ve learned from my involvement in the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania that York County is looked upon as an innovative leader by other communities in the commonwealth. I’m proud to be a York countian.

In an effort to improve the cross-communication and effectiveness of decision-making, the commissioners established the Commissioners’ Leadership Team. The team is composed of administrator Mark Derr, budget director Tom Hoover, Executive Director of Human Resources Kristy Bixler, Director of Facilities Scott Cassel, solicitor Glenn Smith, communications director Mark Walters and Commissioners Susan Byrnes, Doug Hoke and Chris Reilly. We meet bi-weekly to discuss key issues and ensure proper delegation of resources and efficient delivery of our services.


A meeting with our state delegation resulted from the leadership team’s reservations about proposed cuts to many areas of service in our judicial system. We relayed the deep concerns from leaders in our probation department and the district attorney’s office to a receptive group of representatives. As a result of our communication and the action of other counties, funding for these services has been restored.

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Congratulations to the new leaders at our prison and our nursing home. Clair Doll, previously a deputy warden, was promoted to warden. Thank you to District Attorney Tom Kearney and his search team, who devoted many hours to a national search and interview process. We also want to thank Bill Sprenkle and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for advice and guidance as we re-organize the operations of our prison, which houses close to 2,200 inmates daily, and adopt best practices going forward.


The new leadership at Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is in the very capable hands of Tammy Hetrick. Hetrick was promoted to administrator after six months as acting administrator. Thank you to Tammy and her team for their extraordinary dedication to the care for our 375 residents of Pleasant Acres. In the next two months, we will receive a report from Complete HealthCare Resources detailing a series of recommendations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations and management going forward.


We celebrated an Employee Appreciation Day with close to 2,000 county employees and their families at the Revs game on June 30. Thank you to Eric Menzer, Reed Gunderson and the Revs’ leadership team, who increased the efficiency of getting people through the gates and to the picnic supper in record time. Our gratitude is extended to our many sponsors for making this event possible. Thank you also to Sherry Baer, chief clerk, for her countless hours to make this day a success.


Darnell Ort, the commissioners’ executive assistant, and I thanked the office managers of our 19 magisterial districts last week. They and their staff work tirelessly to assist citizens who must appear in court and/or pay fines. Not easy work. We appreciate their quiet efficiency and efforts.


We welcome Terry Gendron, director, his staff and all veterans to the new location of the Department of Veterans Affairs, at 28 E. Market St. I love interacting with our visiting veterans. If you are visiting our administrative center please know there is a blue handicapped parking space in front of our building for your convenience. There is also a lift for those who need assistance with the front steps.


The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is the nonpartisan voice of county government, representing all 67 counties. It is committed to service excellence through programs that support effective county government. I serve on the association’s Human Services Committee and on the Behavioral Health Task Force with fellow county commissioners from around the commonwealth. In August 2016, the task force released an extensive report related to county jail populations highlighting an increasing number of pre-trial offenders and inmates who suffer from mental illness.


Mental illness is not a crime. One of the goals of CCAP is to consider treatment as an alternative to jail. Many of York County’s departments are collaborating, using best practices as they take significant steps to utilize alternatives to incarcerating those with mental health and substance abuse issues. In addition, April Billet Barclay, director of probation, has taken the lead for York County to join the national Stepping UP Initiative.


— Susan P. Byrnes is president of the York County Board of Commissioners.