WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County’s new acting Manager C. David Pedri delivered a pep talk to county employees in the courthouse rotunda Friday afternoon.
A county council majority selected Pedri, the county’s chief solicitor, last week to oversee day-to-day operations during the search for the next county manager, which is expected to take months. Robert Lawton, the first non-interim manager under the home rule government implemented in January 2012, resigned effective Dec. 31.
Most of the county council members had identified a lack of communication as a major concern under Lawton’s tenure.
“The reason why I wanted to have this speech here is because the days of communication with county management via email blast are over,” Pedri told the crowd. “I want everybody to understand that I’m available.”
Pedri invited the media to the address, and his family members, including his wife, his daughter, his mother and father, sat in the front row. He told the group he wants to maximize his time as the top manager, even it it is only a temporary post. It is expected he will apply for the permanent position.
“While the term acting is in my title, I do not see this opportunity I have as a dress rehearsal,” he said. “I only have one speed. I’m going to work incredibly hard.”
He shared three goals:
• Repairing water damage and other work needed in the “amazing” historic county courthouse.
The county’s capital plan projects $2.2 million will be earmarked through 2019 to repair past water damage of interior courthouse plaster, canvas, tile and gilding. The plan budgeted $170,000 to prepare restoration plans this year.
• Filling numerous vacant positions funded by the council, including some that have been lingering on the county’s online job posting section for months.
• Focusing on the suggestions of county employees
“I know you know that we can do better here,” he said. “The script is unwritten.”
He said most, if not all, employees were drawn to county government work to help people and their community, and he urged them to share their ideas to improve the county. Pedri said he is in the process of visiting each office.
“This is our chance, fellow county employees. Let’s really do something,” Pedri said.
A county employee for more than a decade, Pedri said he’s tired of hearing “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
“I don’t want to hear those words ever again,” he said.
He challenged his colleagues to fight the county’s persistent “self esteem problem.”
County workers have shown resilience and hope during “the most tumultuous decade in Luzerne County history” that included a major corruption scandal, record Susquehanna River flooding and the conversion to home rule, he said.
“Too long have we walked with our heads bowed. Too long have we walked with our shoulders low. Today is a new day,” he said. “I stand before you today as an unapologetic and proud Luzerne County employee, and the people standing in this rotunda here today have nothing to be sorry for. It’s time to restore that pride in Luzerne County.”
He invited the workers to grab refreshments he purchased with his personal funds.
“Let’s get to work,” he said.
Several workers offered positive feedback as they headed out:
“It’s wonderful. Let’s hope he can do this.”
“That was something.”
“I hope that everything he said comes to be truth.”
“I just wanted to thank you for those kind words,” a drug and alcohol department worker told Pedri as she rushed to introduce herself to him.
In other business, Pedri named county assistant solicitor Vito DeLuca to temporarily serve in his position as chief county solicitor.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.