Kessinger ready to ‘hit the ground running’
By JOHN RISHEL
LOCK HAVEN — With six years of previous experience as Clinton County commissioner, Republican Miles Kessinger finds his name back on the ballot.
“I have been a resident in Clinton County all my life. I have 24 years experience in county government, six years as a Clinton County commissioner and 18 years as court administrator,” Kessinger said. “Even though I wasn’t in the commissioner’s office all those years, I spent time with domestic relations, probation, district justice offices, the court system, and back and forth with the community.”
Kessinger said, “You are never going to hear me say that I will never raise taxes.”
“That is just something you never want to say, because never is a long time. When the state of Pennsylvania says you will do this and they don’t send any funding along with it… and you don’t do that… then they pull the funding for all the other programs that they fund,” he explained. “You have to look at it quite independently, and look quite hard at it. What I will say is that I will do my utmost best to maintain the cheapest way to run government that we can, while funding the needs of the public and the agencies that we have.”
Kessinger labels county government as “a business that involves people … a people business.”
“We deal with hard times and the less fortunate within the county. We have to make sure the children are safe, domestic relations is taken care of, to run a safe and efficient correctional facility, with the goal to maintain a safe and friendly working environment for staff and citizens of the county so everybody is treated equally,” he continued.
As far as to why he wants this position, Kessinger said he still believes that in retirement, he has a lot to provide the county.
“I enjoyed the time that I had working within county government. I spent eight years as a member of the Keystone Central School Board and have always been interested in public service. As my grandfather used to say… ‘there is no substitute for experience.'”
A lifelong county resident, Kessinger said he graduated from Bald Eagle Nittany High School and then from Lock Haven University. He also sits on the Mill Hall Zoning Hearing Board and is a member of the Suburban Water Authority Board of Directors.
“I have been involved in public service for over 40 years. Just the experience and knowledge that I have is beneficial to this position. I don’t think that a lot of people realize what is involved in being a commissioner, the level of involvement, and the time that it takes to do that position and be successful at it,” he said. “You can be gone five days and five nights a week, depending on which boards you sit on.”
According to Kessinger, it takes a year in office to really get comfortable handling all of a commissioner’s responsibilities.
“With my past experience, I feel I can come in the first day of the job, feel comfortable and hit the ground running, so to speak. I don’t have to sit back and try to learn the system,” he explained.
As for changes that need to be made, Kessinger said it is “hard to say anything isn’t working.”
“I think we need to back up on our moving things around, and get settled in so people know where the offices are and where they need to go for county services. As to what isn’t working, that depends on which side of the table you are sitting on. Whether you are sitting as a county commissioner or a member of the public, I am sure everyone has a different idea. Being a small county compared to others, our county commissioners are more accessible to the public,” he said. “Citizens of the county see you on the street or out at dinner and feel comfortable talking to you about what they feel is wrong and what needs to be done. We can take that back to the other commissioners. Overall, the county runs very smoothly. Like with any other business, you’re going to have bumps in the road. You have to be willing to sit down with the people that have these complaints and that are being affected, and what is going on and make the corrections you feel necessary.”
Kessinger said that the single most important issue facing the county is “finding a way to get Harrisburg and state legislature to quit passing mandates and putting it on the county without giving any money back to handle that.”
“It is just like the voting machine issue. This is probably the third time that I can remember that we had to buy new voting machines because they don’t suit somebody, and that is a half a million dollars of our county’s taxpayers’ money,” he said. “The state keeps saying, ‘oh, we are going to pay for them.’ Well, they said that this year and I hope they follow through with it. It is a half million dollar bill just to pay for new voting machines. So, I think the big thing is holding that line on the budget, trying to maintain what we have and to do the best we can with the resources that are available.”
He said that going to our citizens and asking them to pay more would be “the last resort.”
“A lot of it falls back on Harrisburg’s shoulders. They are the ones who say you have to have a probation department, domestic relations, run a prison, fund the courts and all this stuff, but all they constantly do is cut the money that is coming back to run those particular agencies. There is not a lot of fluff in the county budget,” he said.
“What the county is responsible for is pretty much set by state statute and requirements. The fluff is the things that go out to local agencies that request additional money. Those are the real issues that become line items for the commissioners to consider yes or no to. We need to hold the line on where we are, try to maintain a cost effective and efficient county budget, and treat the people with that respect to let them know that they have somebody in the commissioner’s office who is going to listen to them, take care of this stuff and figure it out.”