READING, Pa. – Berks County Commissioners on Thursday morning voiced strong support for their recent choice of Paige Riegner as the director of election services.
Both commissioners Christian Y Leinbach and Michael S. Rivera spoke high praise for Riegner after hearing a public comment criticizing the choice as partisan politics.
Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt, the sole Democrat on the panel, did not attend the meeting, but did vote in favor of Riegner earlier this month.
Wyomissing resident Jane Palmer – a frequent commentor at commissioner meetings- called Riegner a GOP mouthpiece.
“Your choice to appoint Paige Riegner as Berks Elections director is appalling,” Palmer said. “Miss Riegner comes to us steeped in GOP ideology, having served as chief of staff to Representative Ryan Mackenzie, who was among those fighting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. To this day, neither Riegner, nor her former boss , will say that the election was free and fair, despite countless, bogus so-called audits coming up empty.”
“How can we trust her to oversee ours (elections),” she questioned. The reason some people don’t trust the process is because those who know better tell them it’s untrustworthy. It’s gaslighting at its worst and you have done us a terrible service by appointing someone who has made a career as a GOP mouthpiece.”
Leinbach reminded Palmer that -as was announced at the time of hiring- all three commissioners fully vetted Riegner.
“Prior to us vetting her, she went through a process with a subcommittee, not involving any of the commissioners or any of our executive assistants,” Leinbach said. “There is no question in my mind -and my colleagues support this- that she was the best choice. We fully vetted the issue of her involvement in an office of a Republican house member. We are confident that she understands the role is a non-partisan role and she has our one-hundred percent support.”
Leinbach added that he would ask people to not to pre-judge her based on where she previously worked.
“We have no interest in bringing a partisan person into this position,” he said. “What we were looking for and we believe we found, is an individual that understands the need for voters to be able to trust the integrity of the voting process.”
Rivera reminded Palmer that Barnhardt is the chair of the election board, and fully supported the choice.
“Paige was a unanimous decision, so keep that in mind as well,” Rivera said. “If you are looking at who someone worked for, you are saying that basically that person cannot separate their political views from the professional decision making.”
“We feel she can be nonpartisan, and we’ll make sure that she is not partisan about this,” Rivera added. “It’s important for us to maintain politics out of the electoral process to ensure that the people do trust the Berks County Election Services Department.”
In other business, the commissioners voted to approve a resolution to suspend the county mask mandate, currently in place for all employees and visitors to county buildings.
The resolution gives Chief Administrative Officer Ronald R. Seaman, the authority to determine an effective date, and to establish further protocols concerning masking at county facilities.