CountyBallotCounting

FILE: Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D'Agostino talks to LNP | LancasterOnline about the mail-in ballot counting process on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. More than 80,000 mail in ballots need to be counted in Lancaster, according to D'Agostino.

In what's become a tradition on the three-member Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, one Republican will pass the chairman’s gavel to his fellow GOP board member.

Commissioner Ray D'Agostino is expected to take over as chairman at Wednesday's meeting of the board, succeeding Commissioner Josh Parsons, who has served as chairman since taking over from former GOP commissioner Dennis Stuckey in 2018.

The change in leadership comes as Craig Lehman, the board’s lone Democrat, prepares to leave office on Friday. Lehman submitted his letter of resignation last month, saying he wanted to “explore other professional opportunities.”

Lancaster County’s 13 Court of Common Pleas judges are now working to appoint a new commissioner to serve the rest of Lehman’s term, which runs through 2023. They will hold public hearings with the candidates they deem most qualified on Feb. 4.

The board of commissioners will need to re-approve this change in the chairmanship after a third commissioner is appointed to fill Lehman’s vacancy, Parsons said during Tuesday’s commissioners work session.

During the meeting, D’Agostino said he would “happily” take over the gavel as chairman.

As chairman, D’Agostino will move into the top executive role in the county as the new face of the board. He will now chair the county’s weekly meetings as it oversees government operations, such as its courts and human services – all departments that are struggling to fill staff vacancies in the pandemic.

He’ll also lead the board as it moves forward on building a new county prison, one of the county’s biggest projects in recent years and an effort that is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Lehman said he planned to abstain from the official vote on Wednesday, since he is about to leave the board.

It’s been past practice for GOP commissioners to change hands in leadership like this, Parsons said in an interview after Tuesday’s work session. For example, Parsons said, Stuckey was chairman for Parsons’ first two years on the board, since Stuckey had experience already as a commissioner. After those two years, Parsons stepped into the chairman role and Stuckey announced he would not seek a third term on the board.

“It’s been somewhat of a tradition,” Parsons said of the majority Republicans taking turns leading the board. “Keeping that up, that’s appropriate.”

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