LUZERNE COUNTY Home Rule is in its 11th month and under the terms of its charter, soon after the first of the year, you will be given another opportunity to participate in positive change.
Last year county voters elevated 11 candidates to sit on the inaugural county council in an entirely new form of government headed by a professional, unelected county manager that didn't have to spend years campaigning to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars promising, implying or intoning a thing.
Out with the old government, in with the new, Luzerne County residents paid close attention, remained steadfast and were incredibly patient as the laborious process of government change unfolded.
Unlike the previous dysfunctional system of county governance, voters under the Home Rule charter do not have to wait 4 years to affect additional meaningful change.
Beginning next year the new charter, approved Nov. 2, 2010 with 55 percent of the vote, gives voters the right to repeal and replace 5 of the 11 county council members selected in 2011 while the remaining 6 seats will be up for review in 2015.
In an effort to stagger the terms of the 11 county council seats the charter provides that the top 6 candidates in the 2011 race for council were elected to a 4 year term. However those council members finishing in the bottom 5 slots (7 to 11) were elected for an initial term of only 2 years and that those 5 positions be up for grabs and on the ballot in 2013.
Also on the ballot next year, in addition to numerous municipal and school board openings, is the office of county controller.
At their meeting on Wednesday county council began a process to increase the county controller salary to $64,999 beginning in 2014. Hopefully that will intrigue several high quality candidates interested in public service.
A county controller is responsible for auditing the expenditure of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Yet the controller salary is only $36,562 per year. Such inadequate compensation, despite the allure of public service, does not attract the best and brightest auditors and accountants to leave the security of their current employ for the political vagaries and huge responsibilities of high elective office.
However it's not too early for you to think about running.
Two years ago 55 Luzerne County residents stood tall and ran for a seat on the new county council.
Thirty-three Democrats, 16 Republicans and six Independents answered the call of public service, filed the paperwork and launched their campaigns to make a difference. So can you.
The Democratic and Republican primaries for the five open seats on county council will be held on Tuesday May 21, 2013. On that day each party will nominate their five candidates to compete in the November general election, along with any qualified independents, for the five available seats on council.
February 19 is the first day to pick up your paperwork at the Election Bureau. It's located at 20 N. Pennsylvania Ave. Suite 207 in Wilkes-Barre. Your packet will contain petitions for you to obtain the signatures of 250 Luzerne County voters registered in your party. Return them by March 12 and your name will be listed on the May 21 ballot when everyone goes to vote.
In the three weeks allotted, your family, friends and supporters will likely gather three times the number of signatures required. While dates in February, March and May seem a long way off, begin planning now.
You will find it interesting, exciting and extremely rewarding. It's the beginning of your campaign to make a difference.
Kevin Blaum's column on government, life and politics is published every Sunday. Contact him at [email protected].