Amanda Holt, a 32-year-old piano teacher whose research led to a Supreme Court decision that changed state legislative districts across Pennsylvania, was appointed as the ninth Lehigh County commissioner Wednesday night.
Holt, one of 15 Republican candidates considered by the county commissioners, won the votes of five commissioners in their fifth round of voting.
The Upper Macungie Township resident has never held an elective office, yet she was selected over three former county commissioners and several other candidates with experience as elected municipal leaders.
She will serve for 17 months, filling the seat vacated by Scott Ott, who resigned in May to move to Texas.
In each round of Wednesday’s voting, the eight commissioners named which of the 15 candidates they wanted to see join them on the board.
Holt got only one vote in the first round, none in the second round, three in the third and fourth rounds and the five she needed in the fifth round – which followed a 10-minute recess.
Voting for Holt in the final round were Commissioners Lisa Scheller, Vic Mazziotti, Brad Osborne, Michael Schware and Thomas Creighton.
Realizing Holt had the five votes she needed, Commissioner David Jones got the best laugh of the night when, as the last to vote, he said:
Holt briefly stood to thank the commissioners for the thought and attention they gave to the appointment process and to say all 15 candidates were excellent.
She was not sworn in after the vote, so she did not take the empty seat on the dais.
Scheller, chairwoman of the commissioners, said that will happen before or at the start of the commissioners’ next meeting on July 23.
In the early rounds of voting, Kevin Dellicker of Weisenberg Township and Rene Rodriguez of South Whitehall Township were the leading candidates. Dellicker got four votes in the second round and Rodriguez got four in the fourth round.
While Dellicker also never held elected office, Rodriguez is a former South Whitehall Township commissioner.
The only other candidates who got any votes were Angelique Bailey, who got three during the five rounds, and Roger C. Reis, who got one.
Jones, vice chairman of the commissioners and one of only two Democrats, described Holt as a bright and intelligent woman, but he is concerned because she has no prior experience serving on a municipal government board.
New commissioner is conservative
Jones also wished a more “middle-ground” candidate would have been selected. He hopes Holt’s appointment will not result in a continuation of the conservative majority on the board, but that she will have “an open-minded approach to how we fund the government.”
“I would say she’s conservative, but she’s fair,” said Scheller.
Scheller said Holt did not work to get the state Supreme Court to order statewide legislative redistricting in 2012 to benefit Republicans, but to benefit Pennsylvania residents.
Holt later agreed that she is a conservative Republican. She said she’s interested in “adhering to the law and doing what is best for the citizens of Lehigh County under the law. I think that’s the role of a commissioner and where the focus needs to be.
“I’m a hard worker and I really care about people. I’m interested in doing the right thing for the people of Lehigh County.”
Scheller predicted Holt will do an exceptional job looking out for the interests of county residents. “She has great analytical skills, she’s fair and she’s willing to stand up for what she believes in.”
Said Osborne: “Amanda Holt meets an important criteria in my personal consideration for this vacancy -- that of being a conservative, yet independent thinker. She has demonstrated she is not afraid to stand alone on principle.”
When Holt applied to become a county commissioner, she wrote that she can consider all sides of an issue “without prejudice;” analyze and understand intricate reports and financial records; master complex concepts “and explain them to others,” and approach the decision-making process with “thoughtful deliberation.”