MEDIA — Sometimes, final moments can cut right to the heart of things.
Take Wednesday's Delaware County Council meeting, for instance. After incessant, passionate bickering earlier in the proceedings, all five members paused at its end to focus on the good as Republicans County Council Chairman John McBlain, Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone and Councilman Michael Culp had their departing moments at council's final meeting of the year.
McBlain and Morrone were constrained from term limits after having served two four-year terms and Culp chose not to seek re-election after serving one four-year term. In January, three new members, Christine Reuther, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Dr. Monica Taylor, all Democrats, will assume their seats, giving Democrats a unanimous 5-0 majority, something never before seen in Delaware County.
As their final act, the trio voted to approve a $358 budget that does not call for a tax hike, although Democrats said the outgoing GOPers were simply kicking a tax increase down the road by dipping into reserve accounts to balance the books. Both Democrats Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden voted against the spending plan.
On Wednesday, however, the focus was on those leaving.
First to note the occasion was Helen McBlain, mother of the outgoing chairman.
"I just want to publicly thank Colleen, John and Michael for their excellent work that they have done," she said during the public comment section. "Nobody knows except for family members how much time, effort and energy they have devoted. Thank you so much."
Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Thomas McGarrigle, a former county councilman himself, added that these three provided services to their communities many years before they became elected officials.
"There's not one community event that these individuals haven't been a part of in their community, long before they became public officials," he said.
Culp was noted for his wit - something often associated with those who harken from Springfield.
"Mr. Culp," Councilman Brian Zidek said, "I'm not sure what the future holds for you but I suspect you could have a fine career in 'Jeopardy.' I'm not sure if you'll get all the questions right but nobody's quicker on hitting the button than you will be. I fear that our meetings will be interminable without you making the motion to adjourn."
"I'm willing to do it right now," he said to laughter.
Even in his own comments, Culp, like the Morrone and McBlain, thanked his family.
"My kids tried their hardest to be here today," Culp said. "I don't think it was just to see me off, I think it was to get off of school."
Morrone was noted for her even keel.
"Ms. Morrone, at our very first meeting, you loaned me a pen and I've been glad to have you sitting next to me ever since," Culp said. "I'd also trust it was useful to have a cooler head between me and Mr. McBlain."
"Colleen," Culp also said, "I'm going to thank you for being between me and Brian also. You're always a calming influence. You're a tremendous asset to Delaware County and I thank you (and McBlain) for all you gave up for this county."
McBlain was praised for his knowledge of the county, having served at the county level since 1993, either as county councilman or as legal counsel for the Solicitor's Office or Children and Youth Services.
"Your historical knowledge of the county and your dedication will certainly be a big void in this county going forward," Morrone said of her colleague.
Well wishes, regardless of party affiliation, and appreciation for the county employees was a repetitive theme.
"I wish them good luck," Culp said of the future council. "Now, that they've won the elections, it's time to talk the talk and walk the walk. You can't blame John, Colleen and I for votes anymore."
"Sure I can," county Councilman Kevin Madden said.
"Yeah," Culp retorted, "I'm sure you're going to do it. I'm sure you're going to blame the Republican Party but I wish you nothing but the best. To the employees of Delaware County, you really do make the five of us up here look the best."
"The teams that we have at the county, the 1,700-plus employees that work at the county, are truly dedicated to Delaware County and making Delaware County Delco strong."
McBlain spoke to his successors.
"You know what, on some issues we may argue for a half-hour or so or whatever it is, but when we walk upstairs or we see each other, everybody's very ladylike and gentlemanly and cordial," McBlain said. To the Democrats, he added, "Thank you for your collegiality these last couple years. I wish you great luck into the future and your vision for Delaware County. I hope the county is successful. I've spent the last quarter of a century trying to make it that way. I wish you the best moving forward."
Madden noted the uniqueness of what their situation possessed.
""When we think about what's really facing our country at really every level, what I view ... to be one of the greatest threats to our country is the inability for people who disagree to be able to disagree in an agreeable fashion," he said, adding that the five weren't always successful at that. "But I really want to deeply acknowledge the people to my right because on many occasions, I believe we were able to set an example at a time when, frankly, this hadn't happened before in Delaware County ... We've really been able to get a lot done. I'm certainly proud of the work we've done together."
As he closed, McBlain said, "Good luck to the people who will occupy these seats in years to come. There have been a lot of great people who have been in these seats over the years and I know and I hope that they'll live up to the same standards that we've set for the residents of Delaware County."