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Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure Pledges to Protect Most Vulnerable Members of the Population

By Colin McEvoy on March 2, 2018

Lamont McClure took to the stage at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem on March 2 to deliver his first State of the County address since his election to the county executive position three months ago.

McClure stressed the importance of serving the most vulnerable members of the population through the county’s core fundamental responsibilities, including running the Gracedale Nursing Home, providing a court system, and running the county prison.

“I didn’t run to be a cookie-cutter county executive; I did not run to run for higher office,” McClure said to a crowd of more than 150 people at the State of the County address, which was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

“I ran because in my 10 years on Northampton County Council I noticed a sclerosis in county government, in the authority of its boards and the power structure of the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “It’s time to change that. I’m going to change it.”

Boosting morale

McClure said upon taking office, he was surprised how low morale was among county employees, which he said in turn creates the risk of affecting the services that county residents receive from them.

“We have set to immediately address those problems, because when your grandmother is at Gracedale, you want the folks there to have the best possible morale when caring for her in her greatest hour of need,” he said.

McClure also said he will continue to quickly fill positions in the county’s Area Agency on Aging and the Division of Children, Youth and Families that have gone unfilled at the county for more than a year. He noted the Pennsylvania Department of Aging previously gave Northampton County an F, its lowest rating, which he called unacceptable.

“I was absolutely shocked; this is our most vulnerable population, and we got an F?” he said. “We have an aging population in Northampton County, and as they grow older, so will the need for greater services for the aging. So the first thing I said was ‘We need to get a handle on this.’”

Intelligent planning

McClure spoke of the importance of open space and farmland preservation, as well as ensuring warehouse development is done properly and does not negatively affect the quality of life for county residents due to traffic and other factors.

He predicted that much of the Lehigh Valley’s economic development and growth in the next 10 years will take place in the Slate Belt, so he stressed the importance of intelligent planning and a forward-thinking approach for growth there starting now.

“The central question for us moving forward toward the second half of the 21st century is, ‘Are we going to move forward with intelligence?” McClure said.

McClure said he plans to explore renewable energy options for the county, and that he would enforce the colloquially-named “80 percent rule,” which states that 80 percent of construction jobs stemming from economic development in the county must come from people who live in the Lehigh Valley or its contiguous counties.

Fighting the opioid crisis

He also vowed to address the “opioid crisis” in Northampton County. Funds have been identified to do so, he said, and a plan is in the works that will specifically target young users of opioids, under the ages of 18 and 21.

“It’s an area not being addressed,” McClure said. “The young folks who are addicted are not being served, and we are working on an innovative plan to help them.”

McClure, a Bethlehem Township resident, was an attorney with the Bethlehem-based Law Offices of Peter Angelos. He previously served on Northampton County Council from 2006 to 2015, where he was an outspoken advocate for keeping the Gracedale Nursing Home under county ownership.

“Having spent a decade working on Northampton County Council, I know that our charter makes them the governing body of the county, and i am their co-equally elected administrator,” he said. “We will acknowledge and work with them, and move forward with them on the issues that they care about.”

The State of Northampton County event was sponsored by presenting sponsor Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, and silver sponsor Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA).

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