KINGSTON — A familiar name will be on the ballot in the fall for the Luzerne County controller’s race with the choice of Carolee Medico Olenginski to run as the Republican candidate.
The county GOP’s executive committee Sunday selected her to fill the spot vacated by Walter Griffith who resigned from the office without explanation earlier this month.
Medico Olenginski, 69, will face Democrat Michelle Bednar in the Nov. 5 general election.
With less than three months until voters go the polls, Medico Olenginski did not believe she was at a disadvantage and had to catch up to Bednar.
“I think I’ve been campaigning for the past 12 years,” Medico Olenginski said. “I can’t go to a store or restaurant that people don’t thank me for the work I did.”
She is in the last few months of her four-year term as prothonotary, a position she was elected to in 2009. She also was elected to the office in 1997, but lost a reelection in 2001 to Democrat Jill Moran. The office was eliminated when the home rule charter form of government took effect in 2012.
Since September 2012, she has not worked in the office and has continued to receive her annual salary of $36,562 after county Manager Robert Lawton dismissed her over a dispute regarding her responsibilities under the newly unified Division of Judicial Services and Records.
She remained critical of Lawton, saying, “Home rule doesn’t mean a dictatorship.”
“This county right now is just being born. The foundation built these years is very important,” she said of its development under the home rule charter that replaced the three-commissioner form of government with an 11-member elected County Council and an appointed manager.
She described the role of the controller as that of a watchdog with an independent voice and the courage to speak up when something is wrong.
“What you need to be is, first of all, vigilant. You need to have a sense of mathematics, a sense of right and wrong,” Medico Olenginski said.
She said she is qualified for the controller’s post and has demonstrated her abilities as an elected official.
“I’ve already walked the walk and have a proven record to take on the challenges,” Medico Olenginski said.
That’s what distinguishes her from her opponent, Medico Olenginski said.
Bednar could not be reached for comment.
Details of the executive committee’s vote were not made public. County Republican Chairman Bill Urbanski and committee members met for nearly three hours at the Kingston Rec Center. They interviewed Medico Olenginski and Karen Ceppa-Hirko of Wilkes-Barre, who lost to Griffith in the May primary.
Medico Olenginski said she did not get a vote count from Urbanski. She said she expects to win the general election.
“Why? For the same reason that they voted for me last time,” she said, adding that she was the top vote-getter with approximately 37,000 votes.
Putting a campaign together won’t be difficult, she said. It should not take much money, time or effort to put her campaign committee together and get it in gear, she said.
“I’m back. I’m rested. I’ m ready for the challenge,” Medico Olenginski said.