MEDIA COURTHOUSE — Democrats officially took control of county government Monday morning with the swearing in of Dr. Monica Taylor, Christine Reuther and Elaine Paul Schaefer, who joined incumbent Democrats Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek on the five-member county council.
“This is awesome!” exclaimed Schaefer as she stepped to the podium in the John V. Diggins Ceremonial Courtroom. “We have this really rare and sublime opportunity to recreate and reimagine a government, and as a public servant that just does not happen that often. You don’t get the chance to really truly make sweeping change. We get that opportunity and I am so grateful and humbled that you have chosen our team to do this.”
As speakers pointed out over the course of Monday’s induction ceremony, the selections voters made in November for county government posts were significantly historic in many ways.
Council now has a majority of women, including Taylor, the first African-American woman ever elected to the post; Common Pleas Court Judge Nusrat Rashid was the first female African-American judge in Delaware County and the first Muslim Common Pleas judge in the state of Pennsylvania. She joined three other Democrats elected to the bench for the first time during a separate swearing in ceremony Friday; and Jack Stollsteimer, also sworn in Monday, became the first Democrat ever elected as District Attorney.
“Wow, look at what we have done,” Taylor said in addressing the packed courtroom, where many longtime Democratic dignitaries literally rubbed elbows with their Republican counterparts in welcoming the four new officials to county government.
“I know many of you in this room have been working for years, even decades, to see this happen,” said Taylor. “Thank you so much for all that you’ve done. Thank you for being here and thank you for believing that we could do this, because without you, your hard work and your dedication, we would not be here today.”
Reuther echoed those sentiments in her remarks.
“This is possible for us to stand here today because of the work that you’ve been doing,” she said. “We’re going to face obstacles trying to change the culture in the courthouse that’s been run by one party for generations. But our strength is really the commitment I think all of us forged and certainly articulated during this last campaign: To make sure that government works better for all the people of Delaware County, regardless of their party and municipality they live in or who they know.”
Stollsteimer also thanked those who supported the Democratic slate, but added a thank you to the law enforcement community, particularly the attorneys in his office and Criminal Investigation Division, who would also be sworn in later Monday afternoon.
“I know change is hard – it’s unsettling – but it is part of life and I think it actually, for most cases, can lead to a better outcome and it is essential in democracy that we have change every once in a while,” he said, turning to address Common Pleas Court President Judge Kevin F. Kelly. “Judge, what I can tell you is that the men and women that you’re going to be swearing in later today as prosecutors and detectives of the District Attorney’s office, I can proudly say that they are all outstanding public servants and I am absolutely confident that under the leadership of my first assistant, Tanner Rouse, and Chief Jim Nolan of the Criminal Investigative Division, that we’re going to be able to reach our goal, which is to keep our community safe while at the same time making sure that everyone in the criminal justice system is treated with dignity and respect, and given fair and equal justice.”
The induction ceremony was quickly followed by county council’s first meeting with all five Democrats on the dais. Zidek and Taylor were elected chairman and vice chairman, respectively, by unanimous vote, and Madden was appointed as council’s designee to the relatively new Jail Oversight Board, which replaced the old Board of Prison Inspectors in November.
The county prison in Concord was a hot topic at the board’s first meeting and several council members signaled their intent to have a more hands-on approach there moving forward.
Council members also indicated more changes are on the horizon, including holding bi-weekly meetings on the first and third weeks of each month and moving meeting times to 6 p.m. rather than 10 a.m., so that more members of the community can attend.