Montco commissioner tapped for Wolf Cabinet; Dems will keep control of courthouse

     Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards is shown in September announcing a program to put National Suicide Prevention Lifeline information in SEPTA stations. (Image courtesy of Montgomery County Emergency Services)

    Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards is shown in September announcing a program to put National Suicide Prevention Lifeline information in SEPTA stations. (Image courtesy of Montgomery County Emergency Services)

    Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has tapped Montgomery County Commissioner Leslie Richards to become his transportation secretary, creating a political opening in the affluent suburban county.

    Four years ago, Richards was part of a slate that gave Democrats control of Montgomery county’s three-member board of commissioners for the first time.

    Assuming she’s confirmed by the state Senate, will her departure jeopardize the Democrats’ historic takeover? No.

    State law provides that the vacancy will be filled by the county’s Court of Common Pleas for the remainder of the year, and the replacement must be a member of the same party as the departing commissioner. By tradition, the courts defer to the recommendation of the county leaders of the party involved.

    So the Democrats will keep their majority at the courthouse this year, but will have to defend their control in the regular commissioners’ election in November.

    County Democratic chairman Marcel Groen said in an interview he’ll confer with Commissioner Josh Shapiro, the chairman, and others on recommending  a replacement. Asked if candidates’ names were under discussion, Groen said, “There are names, and they aren’t public.”

    In announcing Richards’ selection as transportation secretary, the Wolf transition team noted her chairmanship of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and her membership on the SEPTA board. Richards has a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Her appointment must be approved by two-thirds of the state Senate.

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