Some question judges using different criteria to fill opening than used in 2006; new commissioner seen as having an advantage in upcoming elections
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
WEST CHESTER — Ryan Costello was appointed Thursday as the newest Chester County Commissioner by the county’s Court of Common Pleas judges.
Costello, who had been the county Record of Deeds since 2008, beat out six other finalists, including Jim Jordan of Thornbury, who is currently challenging Costello for the Republican nomination for commissioner. As an incumbent, it is thought that Costello will be the certain nominee and by some estimates, have a leg up for reelection in November.
While few are knocking Costello personally, some around the county, including many Democrats, are asking why the judges appear to have had different criteria for this selection as opposed to the last time a Commissioner seat opened, when Andy Dinniman won a special election to replace state Sen. Richard Thompson in 2006. At that time, the judges said they wanted an interim candidate who would not seek reelection and then bypassed the pick of the Chester County Democratic Committee, Virginia McMichael, and selected former commissioner Pat O’Donnell.
“It appears to me that this appointment is inconsistent,” Democratic County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said. “When the Democratic seat was vacant, the court chose to appoint someone who would not run for the seat when the term expired. It seems to me that the apparent Republican Party Candidate now has an unfair advantage in the upcoming election. Having said that, it is my job to do my best to serve the citizens of Chester County. In that vein, it is my hope that going forward, this new Board will work together to address the needs of our citizens and serious challenges ahead. I look forward to working with Mr. Costello in that capacity.”
This time, Costello was a declared candidate and the judges — 12 out of 13 of whom are Republican, opted to have a different standard for the selection, just five years later. It seems likely to have an impact on the nomination race with Jordan, although straw polls suggest Costello was leading for the nomination.
“I do know many of these judges and trust their wisdom,” Jordan said. “I certainly wish Ryan the best of luck and have congratulated him. The only thing I can say is that the decision could influence committee people at the convention.”
Still, Jordan said he takes some solace in that issues he felt were important were brought to the forefront.
“One of the reasons I decided to run was to present options to the Republican Party and to discuss issues in the County that I felt were important,” Jordan said. “I have achieved my goal of bringing to light issues like bond debt, pension liability, the loss of industry as well as issues like unconstitutional international soft law that is being imposed at federal, state, county and
municipal levels unwittingly by so many officials. Things that would likely not have been discussed this cycle and into the primary.”
Costello said he was thankful to get the opportunity.
“I am honored to have earned the confidence and unanimous support of the Board of Judges to serve as interim Commissioner,” Costello said in a statement. “Chester County is a great place to live and work but much like the rest of the Commonwealth we will have to find ways to do more with less during these difficult times.”
He said his first priority will be to look for cost-savings in county operations, while working to help get the county’s economy moving again.
“With both the state and federal government facing severe budgetary and revenue challenges, Chester County officials must be vigilant of potential cuts to funding sources that are critical to our ability to provide basic services to our residents,” Costello added. “At the same time, we need to focus on opportunities to stimulate the local economy, encourage jobs creation, and provide residents with better access to work opportunities. We certainly have challenges ahead of us, but I have always had a can-do attitude.”
Costello is a life-long resident of Chester County. He was elected to a four-year term as Recorder of Deeds in Chester County in 2008. He previously served six years on the East Vincent Township Board of Supervisors, including four years as Chairman of the Board. Costello is a graduate of Owen J. Roberts High School, Ursinus College, and Villanova Law School. He works as an attorney with the law firm of O’Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, P.C.