EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County starts a new year with a new county executive.
In a surprise upset, Republican John Brown bested Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, the Democrat, for the position in the November election.
It's a political win that shocked some, but a win Brown said he is blessed and fortunate to be a part of.
"Worked hard," said Brown. "We were out almost daily knocking on doors. Really taking the voter feedback and as we were able to do that we knew we were on to something and we had an opportunity."
Now, the former Bangor mayor has to focus on 2,000 county employees, 38 municipalities and a $328 million budget.
It took nearly $16 million from the reserve fund to balance the 2013 budget. Brown said it's time for the county to stop leaking money.
"Between issues with the swaption and generally spending more money than we are bringing in," Brown said. "The reserve fund is beginning to get to the point where it's not an option anymore."
Another concern is Gracedale. Brown likes the job Premier Healthcare Resources is doing as the administrator of the county-operated facility, but he feels more communication about changes is needed.
"I've asked them to come back and be able to demonstrate in very simple terms what does it look like today and what it's going to look like three years from now," added Brown. "That's what I think is important for people to understand."
Brown will also have to deal with a pending lawsuit over the ambulance service at Gracedale, and he'll need to finish appointing his staff.
"I'm looking for the best people I can find, that's what I'm looking for, irrespective of party," said Brown. "I want the best people in the roles I am looking at."
Brown will be officially sworn into office on Jan. 6, 2014 and said he can't wait to get started.
Allentown, PA 18102