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Dan McCarthy returns to Lehigh County government

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:56:07 PM CST
Dan McCarthy
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Daniel McCarthy's retirement from Lehigh County government was short-lived.

Last week, the 65-year-old Allentown attorney participated in his final meeting as a Lehigh County commissioner, a position he held for 12 years.

This week, he was named the county's new director of administration by county Executive-elect Thomas Muller.

The commissioners are expected to act on McCarthy's appointment at their Jan. 8 meeting.

Ironically, assuming his appointment is confirmed, the former commissioner will become the Muller administration's point person at county commissioners meetings.

While McCarthy and Muller are Democrats, seven of the nine county commissioners are Republicans. And Muller recently defeated Scott Ott, one of those Republican commissioners, to become the next county executive.

Said Muller: "Recognizing that the majority of the commissioners didn’t want to see me win the election and the 'smart money' seems to have been placed on 2014 being a year of continued battling between the administration and the board majority, I thought Dan’s demeanor and approach could be helpful in proving that 'smart money' wrong.

"He also has the perspective of a commissioner and I encourage open discussion and debate as plans and programs are being developed."

MCarthy said he never gets too caught up in Democrat and Republican labels. His concern is not a person's party affiliation but '"what are your goals and objectives for the county."

He said the county commissioners "all want the county to deliver services in the most cost-effective way possible. We just differed on how to achieve that goal."

Muller said he wants a director of administration who has a broad perspective on county finances "and a different perspective than my own."

Said Muller: "I was looking to fill the position with someone who would complement me and the rest of the team and Dan fits that bill. I didn’t need a director of administration who was my clone. Dan offers the complementary skills we need and I was delighted that I was able to convince him to accept the position."

McCarthy said he will bring "a fresh set of eyes" and his "own personal skill set" to the county administration. He anticipates that, to do the job successfully, he will be working more than 40 hours a week.

The director of administration's salary is $94,744.

McCarthy calls the new position "a natural progression" in his desire to become more active in county operations. "It was rewarding to be a county commissioner and I expect my new position will be even more rewarding."

Muller and McCarthy must hope approval of  the appointment will go more smoothly than McCarthy's two failed attempts to get his commissioner colleagues to appoint him county executive -- first in 2012 after Executive Don Cunningham resigned, then earlier this year after appointed Executive William Hansell resigned shortly before his death.

After so many years "in the political arena" McCarthy feels he's well-grounded in knowing what the public wants from the county. But he noted that, with 350,000 county residents, speaking with 20 of them does not necessarily reflect the direction the rest want the county to take.

Muller, who currently is the county's director of administration, said a key responsibility of the position is developing the county's annual budget.

"Dan has 12 years of experience from the commissioners’ vantage point and has been one of them who 'gets' the budget and hasn’t claimed that it was too complicated or too massive to understand," said Muller. "He has always been tactful and is excellent at boiling the issues down to the basics so people know what they are considering."

McCarthy said he'll be "the dollar and cents guy."

Muller said McCarthy also will be the administration's chief negotiator for union contracts, adding: "We have three negotiations underway right now and a fourth to begin next year."

He said McCarthy's legal experience will come in handy in labor negotiations and "as I look to develop more public/private partnerships."

Muller said the county's IT, purchasing, fiscal and human resources departments also report to the director of administration.

Muller has named Dennis Reichard to be his chief fiscal officer. He said Reichard has spent more than 30 years handling the city budget for Bethlehem. That included 12 years as budget director, five years as director of budget & finance, the past 16 years as business administrator "and he has filled in as acting mayor on multiple occasions."

Muller said Frank Kane is staying on as director of community & economic development, David Gilgoff is staying on as director of human services, Glenn Solt is staying on as director of general services and Ed Sweeney is staying on as director of corrections.