Chester County Democratic incumbents set to run on their records

By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN | mrellahan@dailylocal.com



WEST CHESTER – As it heads toward its 2021 nominating convention later this month, the Chester County Democratic Committee will have the opportunity to do what no other party gathering has – endorse a slate of incumbent row officers for re-election.

Four years ago, the county’s voters elected four Democrats to fill offices in the courthouse for the first time since before the Civil War. It was the touchstone moment for the change from being a Republican-controlled county government to a Democratic-dominated courthouse.

Two years later, the turnabout was complete when the voters elected seven more courthouse officials, including the first Democratic majority on the board of commissioners since the 19th century.


Now, the four women who took office in 2018 – Clerk of Courts Yolanda Van de Krol, Controller Margaret Reif, Coroner Dr. Christina VandePol and Treasurer Patricia Maisano – are running for re-election, with a chance to go to the county voters and run on something none of their predecessors even had – a record in office All four women are running unopposed for the committee’s endorsement at its Feb. 16 convention, which will be held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on large gatherings.

The Chester County Republican Committee is also expected to endorse candidates for the four offices later this month, although no candidates have been identified for the row office seats. Party Executive Vice Chairman Thomas Donohue said in an email that the committee would hold its convention on Feb. 16 as well, and that it would begin interviewing prospective candidates this week.

“We are confident that we will present Chester County voters with an extremely talented and qualified slate of candidates,” Donohue said.

The four Democrats were asked recently to list the accomplishments their terms in office had produced.

Their edited responses follow: “‘Because we have always done it this way,’ ” was how this office used to be run,” said van De Krol in her email. “No more. Under my leadership we look at absolutely everything we do with the intent to do it better.”


In addition to pointing to initiatives that she has underway this year for changing the way crime victims receive compensation from paper checks to debit cards, to producing an overall inventory of its evidence room, Van de Krol said she would highlight two improvements, making it easier for lawyers to file paperwork with the office by implementing e-filing and electronic records management, and implementing a way to expunge juvenile records for offenders who had not filed the necessary paperwork themselves.

“No longer do attorneys have to bring every piece of paper to the Clerk of Courts in person during business hours; instead, they can scan their documents from anywhere, even when we are closed,” she said. Second, the biggest public policy change is that we now help juveniles leave behind small mistakes that could negatively impact their futures.

Reif, the county’s chief financial overseer, said that she had run on a promise of transparency, efficiency, and accountability. “As controller, those promises have been at the very core of how I function on a daily basis, even when it may have led to the more challenging path forward.”

The office created a social media page that includes documents relating to the financial state of the county, making the information more accessible to the general public. Her efforts at rooting out problems in the county Sheriff’s Office under former Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh had “increased trust in the Controller’s Waste Fraud and Abuse hotline, which she said had uncovered several areas of opportunities for change. Due in part to her offices’ investigation, criminal charges were filed against Welsh last year for her actions in office. She has pleaded not guilty.

Reif also said that as a member of the county Retirement Board, she tried to learn as much as possible about the system, and thus recently became the first board member to earn certification as a public pension professional.

In addition to pushing for the construction of a modern county morgue facility that would do away with what she termed an antiquated system for autopsies and preservation of the county’s deceased, VandePol pointed to her efforts to hold memorial services for those whose bodies were unclaimed by families or friends for burial. The first such service for those “forgotten souls” was held in 2018.

“Facing the opioid epidemic when I took office, I became the first coroner to serve on the (county’s) Overdose Prevention Task Force. I also kept the public advised of new drug threats and overdose statistics, and cooperated with the District Attorney’s office on criminal drug death cases,” she said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, her efforts included putting new protocols and equipment in place to lower infection risks for staff and to ensure accurate identification of COVID-19 deaths, especially home deaths, and calling for an investigation into the high number of COVID-19 deaths at the Southeastern Veterans Center, “bringing wide-spread attention to the dire situation at that and other long term care facilities in Chester County.”

Maisano said that she “had to essentially rebuild the (Treasurer’s Office) from the ground up because before I took office there was no treasurer in leadership. The office had no cohesive processes or procedures in place.

“Under my leadership, the office has successfully started coming into the 21st century,” she said. We continue this transition today. Unnecessary paper has been eliminated. This saves money and keeps private information more private. We have improved the office public-facing website and offer everything in both English and Spanish and have people on staff that are bilingual for direct communication.

Maisano also said that audits by her office of the county’s Hotel Tax collected approximately $500,000 from hotels that had not paid the tax fully, although the pandemic cut short those efforts. “I will also continue to explore cost-sensitive technologies that can be implemented to handle the intake of funds safely and without interruption should we experience a continuation of COVID or a new threat,” she said.

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