More than 800 people applied to participate in 12 working groups established as Delaware County Council prepares to become an all-Democratic governing body.
And while some have questioned how those were vetted down to 200 in two days, Democratic leaders, who didn't anticipate as large of an interest, are encouraging all people to stay tuned through the coming weeks, months and years for ways to get involved.
After Democrats Christine Reuther, Monica Taylor and Elaine Paul Schaefer won seats on county council earlier this month, Delco Transition was set up to navigate a way to transition from a Republican-controlled county which had been in place since the mid-1800s. As part of that process, Reuther, Taylor and Schaefer along with Democratic county councilmen Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek invited community members to apply to 12 working groups that will gather to make recommendations on specific topics.
Those topics include the Census; Criminal Justice; Economic and Workforce Development; Elections; Ethics and Transparency; Finance; Government Administration; Government Facilities; Human Services; Natural Resources; Public Health; and Public Safety.
Zidek explained that some of the groups will have subcommittees. For instance, the Natural Resource group may subdivide into an open space and trails subcommittee and another to focus on sustainability with the Solid Waste Authority to examine ways businesses can act in more sustainable manners.
Each group is setting up their own parameters in terms of how often they will meet and what goals they want to have in place prior to the new Democratic council taking place Jan. 6, what are benchmarks for soon after the new council assumes position and what are long term objectives.
Zidek and Madden spoke to the more than 800 who applied.
Zidek said while he didn't guess how many people would apply, he said he would have guessed substantially less than what did.
"I would not have expected this many people," he said, as he expressed appreciation for people's willingness to volunteer to try to improve Delaware County. "It's a heartwarming thing."
Madden said it's been phenomenal to have such enthusiasm and public involvement in government.
"I think this is really a continuation of what we saw this past election," he said. "I think having 40 percent turnout in an off-year election is unprecedented."
A problem that arose because of the large number of applicants was making selections for the committees, although Madden called it a "high-class challenge to have."
"We had a very challenging situation because of the amount of interest that we received," he added. "We unforunately have a very compressed timeline. No one should think that there wasn't a tremendous amount of work in going through all the applications."
Some who were not selected questioned if the applicants were picked ahead of time and said many of those selected were affiliated with the Delaware County Democratic Party.
Those familiar with the selection process pointed to Republicans on the committees such as Trish McFarland, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, and recent GOP county council candidate Mike Morgan, and noted that even Delco Democratic leader Colleen Guiney and former Delco Democratic chairman David Landau had been applied but had been rejected because of their ties to the party.
"Some people were frustrated and understandably so that the time frame was so short," Zidek said. "We wanted to get something in place before the new County Council took off."
He said all members of the incoming county council along with three people on the Delco Transition staff selected the individuals to be on the working groups.
"If they weren't selected, it wasn't because of quality necessarily but that perspective was seen," he said, giving the example that if there were 20 spots on the Criminal Justice group and four prison guards applied, not all would make it as the groups are meant to seek input from a wide variety.
"We wanted as best we could a cross section of the community," Zidek said. "We wanted to make sure that all political perspectives were represented as well."
He shared that a current Court of Common Pleas judge and Republican, applied. "We were pleased to have that," Zidek added. "I think the broader the coalition can be, I think the better recommendations can be."
The councilman said those who applied can still be a part of the process and encouraged them to reach out to the transition team of their interest through reaching out to Democrats on or incoming to county council or to the transition team via delcotransition.org.
"Their voices can and should still be heard," Zidek said, as he encouraged them to remain engaged. "These things aren't like formal appointments to the United Nations."
Madden agreed the public is still very much needed in this process.
"Nevertheless, we'd love for folks to make themselves available as a point of reference," he said. "There will be points throughout the process before Jan. 6 and after Jan. 6 to continue to be involved in the subject matters. Don't put too much into whether you were or weren't selected for a working group - there will be so many opportunities in the coming months and years."