Solicitor takes over as acting county manager next week

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Improving elections will be one of Luzerne County Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo’s top priorities when she takes over as acting county manager next week, she said Thursday.

“I will be working with the Election Board and election bureau to make necessary changes and ensure the recommendations of council’s inquiry committee are completed,” said the 58-year-old Conyngham resident.

She will start as acting manager Wednesday. The administration has scheduled a 10 a.m. gathering in the courthouse rotunda Tuesday for workers to offer well wishes to outgoing county Manager C. David Pedri on his last day and allow Crocamo to greet employees.

The mislabeling of county Republican ballots as Democratic ones in the May 18 primary was the latest in an ongoing series of problems that have prompted complaints from some voters. Some of these issues — poll worker shortages, staff turnover and adjusting to new voting machines and mail ballots — are occurring in other areas.

While the county manager oversees the election bureau under home rule, the five-citizen election board also plays an active role overseeing elections.

Election board members have issued directives — some recommended by council’s election inquiry committee — as part of ongoing efforts to make the Nov. 2 general as problem-free as possible.

“The Election Board members are really smart and active, and council took a lot of time with its inquiry to make very thoughtful recommendations,” Crocamo said. “We have to make sure we use those resources.”

Crocamo’s other two priorities are preparing the proposed 2022 budget, which is due to council Oct. 15, and a proposed plan to spend the county’s $112.89 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan.

A final federal determination on how the American Rescue money can be spent is expected in August, but Crocamo said she has started reviewing the preliminary eligibility requirements with a team of division heads so a suggested plan can be submitted to council as soon as possible for its consideration.

Some council members also have started pitching their own ideas on how the money should be spent.

On the matter of interacting with the 11-member council, Crocamo said she will listen with an open mind to all of them, including those who did not support her interim appointment.

Six council members supported Crocamo’s appointment: Tim McGinley, Chris Perry, Kendra Radle, Sheila Saidman, Robert Schnee and Matthew Vough.

The remaining five voting against the appointment: Walter Griffith, Harry Haas, Linda McClosky Houck, LeeAnn McDermott and Stephen J. Urban.

A graduate of MMI Preparatory School in Freeland, Crocamo holds two master’s degrees in addition to a law degree.

She worked in the private sector from 1991 to 2010 at two New York City law firms and as managing attorney at the Barbara J. Hart Justice Center in Scranton. Since then, she has worked for the county as a master of county juvenile delinquency and dependency court and a law clerk for county Court of Common Pleas Judge Tina Polachek Gartley before her hiring as county law division head in July 2016.

Her assignment as temporary overseer likely will stretch through the end of the year because council isn’t projected to complete the permanent manager selection process until late November or December. Council voted to pay her $102,116 as acting manager, which is a bump up from her $96,444 compensation as law division head.

Crocamo hasn’t decided if she will apply for the permanent manager position.

“I’m focusing on the job that’s now before me,” she said.

She recently spoke of her vivid memory passing a towering culm bank when she was five and entering the Hazleton area for the first time because her parents decided to relocate from California to be near family members here.

“I said I wanted to go home,” she recalled in a story about a pending private development project that will remove that eyesore remnant of past mining days.

Crocamo said she quickly grew to love this region and is committed to its continued improvement. She’s met with Pedri many times to discuss the position since her appointment and has a packed schedule of briefings on pending projects and other ongoing county government matters. Meetings with all departments are planned.

She admittedly does not have Pedri’s charismatic, outgoing style but said she has strong communication skills and is comfortable speaking before crowds. Interaction with the public is essential because government must “work for the people,” she said.

Long hours and a demanding, fast-paced schedule are nothing new to her.

“I’ve always worked very hard,” Crocamo said. “I have no concern about my ability to put the time in to do this job.”