After blasting gender barriers, a new challenge

Sheriff tapped to serve on state Commission for Women

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Special to

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh was selected by Gov. Tom Corbett to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

PENNSBURY — Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh said she received a phone call a couple of weeks ago that both honored and humbled her.

She said Maria Montero, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, called to tell her that Gov. Tom Corbett wanted to know if Welsh would serve as one of the commission’s 28 representatives.

“I didn’t hesitate” to accept, the Pennsbury Township resident said yesterday, adding that she has no idea how her name surfaced. “It was a wonderful call to receive. I have two daughters and four granddaughters so I’m very interested in issues that will affect them.”

In a press release, Corbett called the women dynamic individuals from across the state who have made significant contributions in their communities.

“Pennsylvania is at a crucial time in women’s business and civic leadership. It is vital to create initiatives that support women taking the lead as entrepreneurs, civic leaders and as mentors,” Corbett said. “I look forward to the great successes the Pennsylvania Commission for Women will achieve.”

Welsh said that the group has already met once and that she was awestruck by the wide range of accomplishments and diverse backgrounds, including health care, government, business and non-profits. “It was an honor to be in their company,” said Welsh, who has no shortage of her own achievements.

In 1982, Welsh founded Hercon, an aptly-named business that became the first female-owned construction firm to receive a major contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 1984, resulting in the completion of a $700,000 overpass over I-95 in Chester. By 1995, she became the first woman president of the Chester/Delaware Homebuilders Association, but her father, the late John R. Welsh, an Upper Darby councilman, had whetted her appetite for politics.

After Welsh became Chester County’s first female sheriff in 1999, she attended a national training class in Colorado for first-time sheriffs, where she became the first woman to be elected class president. At the time, she was one of 30 female U.S. sheriffs out of about 3,000. In 2009, Welsh smashed another gender barrier, becoming the first woman to head the Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Association.

Welsh said she is eager to use her experiences to address the challenges facing women today. She said one of the commission’s goals will be to ensure that resources remain available, despite budget cuts. For example, she said the group will examine successful programs throughout the state ranging from health care to business development and see if they can be expanded through public/private partnerships.

“It’s a great mission, and it’s an exciting mix of talent,” she said. “These are women who are very busy, but they are also women who are used to being efficient. I’m really looking forward to” to working with them.

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