The primary election is May 17. Lehigh County Board of Commissioners has four at-large seats available, meaning anyone from anywhere in Lehigh County can run for those postions. We will bring you profiles of each candidate. Also, from May 9 to May 13, we will give you a voter's guide containing answers to five questions from each candidate. Let us know what questions you want us to ask.
Brad Osborne, a chemical engineer and a South Whitehall commissioner, kicked-off his campaign Saturday for one of four at-large Lehigh County commissioner seats.
At the Woodlawn Fire Co. social hall, where family, friends and elected officials gathered over coffee and doughnuts, Osborne said he is running for county commissioner for "a very simple reason" -- the need for a more effective county board of commissioners.
Historically, he said, the board has had difficulty in working productively with any administration, whether Democratic or Republican.
"A high performing board will work with the administration to not only advance worthy and productive goals, but also serve as a check in matters of fiscal responsibility," he said in prepared remarks.
"Wild swings in tax rates, as we've seen in Lehigh County in the past nine years, exposes the systemic problems in our county's operations, combined with, I believe, the undue influence of election-year politics."
Osborne was referencing, in part, last year's budget process in Lehigh County. A last-minute political fight erupted in the lead-up to a 16 percent tax increase.
"Obviously, the commissioners were not able to work together to give responsible feedback to the county executive," Osborne said, following his formal announcement. He said it was "regrettable" that the process and budget decision had come down to that one night in October.
"The entire process needs to be improved," he said, "and the board of commissioners needs to be engaged in it, fully engaged."
Osborne, 55, is running in the May 17th Republican primary for a four-year term on the county board. The field is expected to be crowded, with as many as eight Republicans and five Democrats running.
"It will be a very competitive race, which is good for the electorate, and I believe, good for the candidates," he said in his remarks. "It will force us to distinguish ourselves from one another and at the same time give voters real choices in the voting booth."
Osborne brings managerial, business and first-class township government experience to his candidacy.
He has been a South Whitehall commissioner for seven years, currently serving as board president. Prior to that, he served on the township's Board of Authority, which is charged with maintaining the township’s sewer and water system. He also serves on the board of the Allentown Rescue Mission.
Osborne is plant manager of Geo Specialty Chemicals, which manufactures specialty chemicals for paints and coatings, water treatment and construction industries. He had previously owned a small business in the petroleum industry, holding a patent in the design of gasoline vapor recovery systems.
He received his bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia.
With fiscal issues expected to dominate the primaries, Osborne spoke to the county's tax rate. At 11.9 mills, the tax rate is 63 percent higher than it was in 2002, he said.
"This is greater than the rate of inflation during this time, and a whole lot more than the tax rate increase in South Whitehall during this time," he said in his remarks.
(South Whitehall has not had a tax hike in 23 years.)
Osborne said county commissioners need to work with the administration to identify ways to be efficient in government without shirking the county's responsibilities, including funding for human services, law enforcement and corrections.
"I'm not a slash and cut Republican," Osborne said in an interview after the event. "I feel we have a responsibility in the county to provide services as spelled out in the Home Rule charter, and we need to fulfill those responsibilities."
He does not think the proposed bi-county board of health is a wise investment, especially in a down economy. "If this were a good idea," he said, "it would have been completed by now.
Osborne was joined at the kickoff by his wife, Janice Osborne, director of marketing and communications for the local chapter of the American Red Cross; his parents, Frank and Virginia Osborne; and his sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Joe DiFillipantonio.
Three of South Whitehall's commissioners were also on hand -- Tori Morgan, Thomas Johns and Howard Ellsworth. Also attending were township firefighters, elected officials from Upper Macungie and Lower Macungie, and candidates for township commissioner.
Ellsworth introduced the candidate, saying that he has been impressed with Osborne's leadership on the township board of commissioners. He described Osborne as collaborative in his leadership style and "future focused." He said Osborne listens to other's positions yet is willing to make the tough decisions.
Editor's note: What are your questions for the candidates? Tell us in the comments section. Patch will select from your questions and get you answers before the primaries.