EDITORIAL: York County's loss, Pennsylvania's gain

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Every boss knows the feeling: That combination of pride, understanding and just a little bit of remorse that wells up when a really excellent employee announces they are leaving for a new opportunity.

That’s how many York County residents are feeling these days upon the news that longtime Clerk of Courts Don O’Shell is leaving his post to serve in a director of staff position at the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

O’Shell, a Republican who was first elected in 2003, truly embodies the phrase “public servant.” His attention to detail, administrative experience and rigorous oversight have long brought a welcome — and necessary — level of professionalism to the office.

His enthusiasm and wonkiness are exactly what’s needed in a position that requires processing, maintaining and recording criminal case records for the Court of Common Pleas, as well as overseeing collection of court costs, fines and restitution.

With those collections exceeding $130 million a year, the Clerk of Courts office is a vital source of operating revenue for the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices, and various local courts.

Yes, O’Shell could occasionally be a bit of a nudge. Recall, he once had his office track down years-late PennDOT license revocation cases when he realized past clerks weren’t consistently forwarding notification following guilty pleas or convictions for certain drug offenses. The result: Thousands of motorists belatedly lost driving privileges for six months — in some cases many years after a case had otherwise been closed.

Still, O’Shell insisted it would have been dereliction of duty on his part not to follow through once he learned over the oversights.

And duty is a topic the Red Lion resident knows something about.

York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell

More:UPDATE: Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell to vacate position, asks Wolf to allow chief deputy to hold job until 2020

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When not overseeing the clerk’s office, O’Shell is an active member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, where he was commissioned in 1997. He currently serves as a lieutenant colonel in the 193rd Special Operations Force Support Squadron in Middletown, Dauphin County, and as a U.S. Air Force Academy admissions liaison officer, where he recruits and advises candidates.

O’Shell spent some five months in 2016 on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, where he worked to increase the size of the Afghan Air Force, conducted human resources initiatives, and flew several missions that included dropping off military supplies and transporting casualties. He also tracked down fellow York County office-holder Judge Craig T. Trebilcock, a U.S. Army colonel who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time, and — astonishingly — regularly checked in on goings-on in York County, even catching up on some Clerk of Courts work when he could.

It’s no wonder he hasn’t faced opposition in his past two re-election campaigns.

It is not surprising that the National Guard has lured O’Shell from the York County office he has occupied for more than 15 years.

He will serve the interests of his country, it is safe to say, with dedication, vitality and honor. We know this because that is exactly how he served the interests of York County residents.

Which is why, just like any good boss, county residents are happy for Don O’Shell but sorry to see him go.

Register of Wills Bradley Jacobs hugs York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell during a brief encounter Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at the judicial center. O'Shell was in Afghanistan for four months as an air adviser for the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing. Amanda J. Cain photo