DOYLESTOWN >> A Democratic majority took control of Bucks County government for the first time in more than three decades on Jan. 6 as three county commissioners and four new row officers took their oaths of office.
The only incumbent to be sworn in was Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, a 12-year minority commissioner who now becomes the new chair of the Board of Commissioners. Her Democratic running mate, Commissioner Bob Harvie, a longtime teacher and Falls Township supervisor, will serve as vice chair.
The other new commissioner is Republican Gene DiGirolamo, a veteran state legislator with a quarter-century of experience in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The election of Harvie and DiGirolamo marked the first time since 1980 that multiple new commissioners joined the Board of Commissioners at the same time. It also was the first time since 1984 that a Democratic majority was inaugurated in Bucks County – a reign that lasted only one term before Republicans took over in 1988 for 32 years.
In remarks to a crowd of more than 200 well-wishers in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room in Doylestown, Marseglia, Harvie and DiGirolamo all stressed the need, and their willingness, to work together and transcend the bitter political divisions being displayed on the national stage.
“The partisanship, the deception, the animosity that I see between the parties and the groups and organizations on either side is more than a little troubling to me,” DiGirolamo said. “It’s actually very scary.”
Known as a moderate Republican willing to reach across the aisle for consensus during his years in Harrisburg, DiGirolamo told the other commissioners and row officers that he is “very, very much looking forward to making Bucks County the best place it can be to live and work and raise our families.”
Expressing gratitude to his wife and children, “who make me feel as if I could fly every day,” Harvie said he sees his new political colleagues and county government leaders as a “new family” that must work together despite ongoing national political strife.
“As a history teacher and someone who has studied history and taught it for the past 26 years, I’ve often been asked in the past four years, `Have we ever been in a place like this before, with what’s happening in this country?’” Harvie said.
“The answer is yes. We’ve been in places like this before, and we’ve survived because we worked together as a family. Because we cared for each other more than we cared about outside forces…And we cared about the future. I think we need to refocus on that, and I’m very confident moving forward that we…will not only make Bucks County the best it can be, but will improve our country as well.”
Marseglia, who was sworn in using a large, Ellis family Bible dating to the early 1800s, noted that she is the last of her clan in Bucks County to bear the Ellis name.
“It seems kind of appropriate that I would close out the family name here as a commissioner,” Marseglia said, adding jokingly: “It’s also kind of ironic that all of those relatives were Republicans and now I’m closing it out as a Democrat.”
Marseglia called her 12 years as a minority commissioner a valuable “training ground” in which she learned much about county government, from public works to voting issues to parks and emergency preparedness. IMG_9514 (2)
“But two-thirds of the county’s work is social work, and I’ve been a social worker for 35 years,” she said. “So I know about mental incapacity and addiction and child abuse and trauma and homelessness. So today, I marry my role as a majority commissioner with my identity as a social worker. I know that the problems we have to solve are complex, and they’re complicated.”
She expressed optimism that the shared ideas and efforts of all three commissioners could solve those problems, improving the county’s quality of life while remaining responsible financial stewards for taxpayers.
“Every day I will serve as a legacy,” she pledged, “to all Bucks Countians who care about the land, and the air, and safety, and quality of life, and opportunities, and kindness to your fellow man.”
Four new Democratic row officers also were sworn in at the inauguration.
Kris Ballerini, a former bank manager and Upper Makefield Township supervisor, will serve as treasurer. attorney Linda Bobrin, who served as a Newtown Township supervisor, is the new Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. Meredith J. Buck, a registered nurse and attorney, will serve as Coroner, and Brian Munroe, a former police officer and Warminster Township Supervisor, is the new Clerk of Courts.
At a reorganizational meeting after the inauguration, during which Marseglia was named the commissioners’ chair and Harvie the vice chair, the new board approved two high-level appointments to their leadership team.
Gail Humphrey, who had served as First Deputy Recorder of Deeds, was named the county’s Chief Clerk. And Joe Khan, a public interest lawyer and former federal prosecutor and assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, was named County Solicitor. Their appointments became effective immediately.