In the race for Chester County supervisor, we think voters are best advised to play it safe and stick with the experienced leadership of incumbent Carlisle Roddey.
Tuesday’s Democratic primary will determine the eventual winner in this race. No Republicans are running.
Roddey is challenged in the primary by Chester Mayor Wanda Stringfellow and Chester County Sheriff’s Deputy Randall Marsh.
We think Chester County could use an infusion of new blood, a county leader with vision and bold, innovative new ideas about how to attract business and industry, create high-paying jobs, keep homegrown talent at home and make the county a center of growth and vitality in the state.
Marsh fits the bill in some respects. A native of Chester, he graduated from Chester High School in 2007. After trying his hand as a radio broadcaster, he decided to join the sheriff’s office, and has been there for the past five years.
Marsh is enthusiastic, devoted to public service and offers fresh ideas. He advocates open government and bringing leaders in the community together to find solutions to the county’s problems.
But Marsh, 25, has had no managerial experience and has never held elective office. While youth, energy and imagination are attributes, we fear that running the county with its multiple departments and dozens of employees would be above his head at this point.
We hope he will remain devoted to public service and consider running for public office after he is more seasoned.
Stringfellow has experience as mayor of Chester, having served three non-consecutive terms. She also has been a teacher for nearly three decades, and currently teaches earth science at Chester Middle School.
She says that, if elected as supervisor, her priorities would include attracting new development to the county and creating opportunities that will encourage young people to stay in the county. She would emphasize public-private partnerships and cooperation between county and city leaders.
We are concerned, however, legal problems Stringfellow has had while in office. She was investigated by the State Ethics Commission in 2013 for improper compensation for her role as city administrator over the course of nine months. She said, however, that she never requested the stipend, although it was approved by the city council.
The commission also fined her for failing to file 2005 public financial disclosure forms as required by the state, which she said was an oversight. And a 2008 audit of her spending as mayor in 2005 faulted her for excessive travel expenses.
We don’t think she is the aggressive, visionary leader who could make the big changes that Chester County needs to prosper in the future.
Roddey, on the other hand, is a proven leader. He first won the seat of county supervisor in 1974 and has held it ever since except from 1998 to 2006. He was supervisor when the county’s textile mills were thriving and when they left. He notes that he has presided during five recessions.
He can point to a dozen businesses that have located in Chester County or expanded their operations during his tenure. And while the county has suffered some of the highest unemployment rates in the state, joblessness now is under 7 percent.
Roddey said the county soon will announce the name of an automotive venture that will bring 1,500 jobs to the county. He also touts his support for the multimillion-dollar Chester County Gateway tourism and conference center in Richburg, which he says has become a center for community activities, from proms to wedding receptions.
Roddey was instrumental in bringing a branch of York Technical College to Chester, which now serves 500 students. He also championed a 1-cent local sales tax to raise money to build a new $1.4 million county jail.
Roddey is a well known figure in the community not only because he is the county supervisor but also because he has been an announcer for Chester High School football games for the past 44 years.
A dispute with York County Sheriff Alex Underwood over whether the county or the sheriff should be in charge of the 911 emergency center has been a divisive issue. While Roddey claims he can get along with anyone, this dispute still is simmering.
We’re convinced Chester County would benefit from new ideas and vision. We’re not sure any of the three candidates completely fulfills that need.
Overall, though, Roddey boasts a solid record of running the county efficiently, tending to constituents and promoting economic development. If voters want a tried-and-true administrator for their county, Roddey is the best choice.