Harvey named Luzerne County election director

Feb. 8—Eryn Harvey has been hired as Luzerne County's new election director, the administration said Wednesday.

A 28-year-old Wilkes-Barre resident, Harvey had worked as deputy election director for approximately one year, resigning in February 2022 to run for state representative.

The election director position has been vacant since Michael Susek resigned, effective Aug. 11.

Beth McBride, who has been serving as acting election director since mid-September, will return to her position as deputy director. McBride had started working in the bureau as deputy director in July.

Election Operations Manager Emily Cook had been serving as acting deputy since mid-September and will remain operations manager.

Harvey said she is honored to accept the position.

"My experience working within the bureau gives me a unique perspective and skill set to assist both County Council and the Election Board in addressing the bureau's current challenges, while achieving much needed stability within the department," Harvey said. "I look forward to getting started as soon as possible to serve the voters in Luzerne County."

Harvey will be the fourth non-interim election director since Marissa Crispell resigned as director in September 2019 following criticism over her participation in vendor-funded advisory board trips.

Crispell's successor, Shelby Watchilla, left for another position in December 2020, after a year in the position. Bob Morgan, the next director, departed Oct. 8 after six months on the job, also to accept employment outside county government. Susek was hired in December 2021 and had 15 years of elections administration experience but left for another career opportunity.

Harvey will receive $64,500 annually as director. The position was advertised at that amount, which is the compensation that had been paid to Susek, Morgan and Watchilla.

At the time of her hiring as deputy election director in February 2021, Harvey had been working in a media/constituent relations position for then-state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Swoyersville. She previously worked for WYLN News, Entercom Communications and WBRE — TV.

Harvey received a bachelor's degree in mass communications from King's College in Wilkes-Barre in 2016.

A Republican, Harvey ran for state representative in the 121st Legislative District last year. She secured 7,437 votes in the Nov. 8 general election, while incumbent Democrat Eddie Day Pashinski won another term with 8,877 votes. results show.

When running for office, Harvey had emphasized her interest in working in a nonpartisan fashion on behalf of all residents.

Harvey also had pointed to her work in a state senate office.

"Because of my experience as a state senator's aide, I've come to appreciate the ability to work together — Republican, Democrat, and Independent — for the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania," Harvey had said.

Under council's administrative code, the county manager has final say on selecting the election director but must seek input from the five-citizen, volunteer election board.

County Administrative Services Division Head Jennifer Pecora and Acting Manager Brian Swetz met with the board in executive session for 14 minutes Wednesday morning during a break in the board's ongoing special election adjudication.

Swetz sent an email to council around 11 a.m. indicating he was pleased to announce Harvey's hiring after several rounds of interviews.

The administration felt the need to fill the position with a "fast approaching municipal election cycle" as part of the upcoming primary, he said.

Swetz noted the county District Attorney's Office has not yet issued a final report on the paper shortage problems the occurred in the November general election.

"I do not see that as an obstacle at this time," he wrote.

Harvey may start in the new position this Friday, he said.

The administration's email announcement to council came during the board's adjudication.

After the session wrapped up, Election Board Chairwoman Denise Williams declined comment on Harvey's hiring.

Board Vice Chairman Jim Mangan said he is pleased the county has resolved the issue of not having a permanent director.

"I look forward to a good working relationship with the new director and moving forward for the best interest of Luzerne County," Mangan said.

Board member Alyssa Fusaro said she believes the hiring will be positive for the county.

"I thinking having bipartisan leadership in the bureau will do a lot to restore public trust and integrity in the election process," Fusaro said.

McBride was a registered Democrat when she was hired as deputy. She changed her voter registration to no affiliation in mid-September.

Board member Audrey Serniak said, "I'm glad they filled the position and that we will now move forward."

Board member Danny Schramm said he does not know what to expect.

"It's not our decision. Time will tell," Schramm said.

Council Vice Chairman John Lombardo said he believes Harvey will "bring a lot of talent" to the bureau due to her experience. He also is hopeful Harvey will remain in the oversight position for years, saying the county needs to stop repeated leadership turnover and bring stability to the bureau.

"I'm happy to see this chapter finally closed on not having an election director," Lombardo said.

Swetz told council he will typically only announce personnel actions related to division heads but is making an exception with the election director and future appointments of an information technology director and human resources director because the managers hired for these positions "interact with many departments and divisions and most importantly the general public."

"I feel vacancies are one of the top challenges for the county as a whole," Swetz said, pledging to "do what I can to find the right candidates willing to fill county positions."

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.