Democrat Tom Muller, the director of administration for Lehigh County, announced Wednesday that he is a candidate for Lehigh County Executive.
Muller, who held senior positions at large companies in the Lehigh Valley before moving into the public sector, is the first Democrat to enter the race.
He announced his candidacy at the Triangle in Emmaus.
Muller, of Lower Macungie, has been the county's director of administration for seven years, serving with former county Executive Don Cunningham to manage a $400 million budget and 12 negotiations with collective bargaining units, according to a prepared release. He has 40 years of experience in the private sector, including as president and chief operating officer for Binney & Smith—now Crayola. He also teaches at Cedar Crest College and chairs the Easton Hospital Board.
"I don’t believe that we should simply gut government and slash spending just because some politician or team of politicians made an uninformed but convincing campaign promise," Muller said, in reference to the political tug-of-war between the county administration and a bloc on the county board of commissioners over the 2013 budget. "There is always room for improvement in any operation and Lehigh County government is no exception, but I believe that government has a job to do, and we must fund it appropriately in order for it to perform those functions."
Before making his official announcement, Muller explained his reason for announcing his candidacy in Triangle Park. Muller said he was bothered by a recent prolonged county-level debate on the appropriate use of Green Futures monies. That debate, he said, tied up the funding for about two months. Emmaus was one of the municipalities struggling to get its share of the funding. (In Emmaus' case, the funds were to be used for planned improvements to a baseball field.)
The construction of Triangle Park, he said, was paid for by the Green Futures Fund. "Emmaus was held hostage over the ball field for two months," Muller said, "and I think that's wrong. That's why we are here."
Emmaus and the other Lehigh County municipalities were ultimately awarded their Green Futures grants.
In his prepared statement that announced his candidacy, Muller said he would not turn away federal grants and programs that would benefit the community.
Muller's statement on why he is running for Lehigh County Executive.
"I’m running for Lehigh County Executive, not Congress. We send some very talented elected officials to Washington to deal with big issues such as the national debt," he said. "If I can get some of your tax dollars back from Washington or Harrisburg to apply to Lehigh County’s needs, I’ll do it."
Two Republicans have already announced their candidacy. in January. So did county Commissioner Scott Ott.
Muller has a bachelor's of science degree in business and journalism from Syracuse University. He received an master's degree from Farleigh Dickinson’s evening program, working during the day and studying at night.
He resides in Lower Macungie with his wife, MJ, and their two children, Joy, a 6th grader, and JT, a freshman at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
Bill Hansell is currently Lehigh County Executive. He is filling out Don Cunningham's unexpired term. Cunningham went on to lead the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.