LEHIGH COUNTY EXECUTIVE RACE
Candidate: SCOTT OTT
Family: Married to Stephanie, the director of children's ministry at Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church. Four children ages 14-24 years, two boys and two girls.
Political party affiliation: Republican
High School, Palisades in Bucks County
BA in Journalism from Penn State University
I'm professional writer and co-host of a current events talk show for PJTV. Author of three books of political satire. I researched, wrote and hosted a 20-part video (non-satirical) series on the making of the U.S. Constitution ('Freedom's Charter' for PJTV).
For five years, I served as Executive Director of Victory Valley Camp in Zionsville. I was also Executive Director of the Lehigh County Republican Committee. My career has focused on communications, marketing, technology and training,including service as Editor-in-Chief of a regional business journal, training manager for a division of Time Warner Cable, and Vice President for Sales and Marketing with a small entrepreneurial company. As a volunteer I've served as Chairman for The Abuse Network, which helped women who were victims of rape and domestic violence; Founding Chairman of Friends of the Embassy Theatre, President of the Shoemaker Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, and as a YouthFriend, in addition to teaching and serving in my church.
Why are you running for Lehigh County Executive?
I'm running to make county government more SAFE, which means...Sustainable, without taking an ever-increasing share of your wallet; Accountable for results, not just good intentions; Focused, on what government must do, but not all that politicians dream it could do; Effective, delivering service with speed, courtesy, quality and efficiency.
For years, county government has drafted budgets that spend more than they bring in, setting us up for periodic tax hikes. We need to change the conversation in county government to match the one at your kitchen table. We Commissioners have begun to do that -- cutting spending and the tax rate. We can do much more with a reform-minded Executive.
What qualifies you to be county Executive?
As a Commissioner, I worked with a team of like-minded Commissioners to:
—Actually reduce spending year-to-year when the administration was trying to increase it by $3.35 million,
—Actually reduce the tax rate--Stop spot appeals for big property owners that were driving up tax rates for everyone, by constitutionally restoring fairness to property assessments
—Block creation of a new bureaucracy, with unmeasurable results, that would have cost at least $500,000 for county taxpayers and millions more in state tax dollars.
—Worked with the administration to begin organizational reforms including priority-based budgeting and performance measurement.
What do you see as the executive’s primary role and responsibilities?
Leadership: which combines sound judgment, bold decision-making and the ability to constructively work with others to advance a vision.
My role as County Executive will be to ensure that organizational performance is evaluated based on pre-determined measures of success and people have freedom to produce, and are held accountable for, outstanding results.
What county government must do, it should do well. It should stop doing what can better be done by other levels of government, non-profit organizations or private individuals and companies.
It is time that public service becomes synonymous with excellent customer service, so that people who must interact with county government will enjoy the courtesy, speed and effective resolution of problems they've come to expect from the best private companies. If we can accomplish all of this, we will not have to spend more then we bring in and therefore will be more responsible and efficient with your tax dollars.
Tell us about three major challenges facing Lehigh County and how you would address them. (Please be as specific as possible.)
Less Spending, lower taxes, more accountable government: that's the end result for the taxpayer of addressing the following challenges.
Changing the culture of government to focus on results, rather than good intentions. Most government entities track their activities, but not whether they're actually making progress toward the objective for which we created the program. As a result, at budget time, they always need more money, but can rarely demonstrate a measurable return on investment (ROI). In fact, we commissioners are often told that government should not be expected to demonstrate a measurable ROI. This past year, thanks to suggestions from reform-minded commissioners, the county administration began to implement priority-based budgeting and performance measurement. These are good first steps. Much more can be done to break through departmental silos, develop cross-disciplinary solutions, consolidate overlapping functions, and incorporate modern technology to drive down costs and drive up efficiency. All of that takes leadership, through an executive who's committed to reforming government, able to build coalitions for action, and not afraid to rock the boat of the status quo.
2. Changing the processes of government to ensure taxpayers get the most from their investment.County government already outsources many functions, however, too often those vendor contracts are not subject to competitive bidding. More competitive bidding will provide accurate pricing information to decision-makers, and drive down costs. In addition, taxpayers have a right to accurate price-value information about every function of government. Market forces are the only way to get that information. That means that competition should become the rule, rather than the exception. If a county government department is the most efficient qualifying "vendor," then it should get "the contract," but it should face periodic competitive bidding make sure it's still the best provider at the best price.
3. Restoring Home Rule Charter checks and balances. Our county constitution, the Home Rule Charter, is like our federal Constitution in several ways, with a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. But over the years, the full-time County Executive has accumulated undue power, as the Commissioner Board has become, in many cases, a rubber-stamp panel, doing the executive's bidding. The Commissioners, as a co-equal branch, should set policy, broad objectives, and performance-monitoring systems for the organization. The Executive should carry out that policy, staying within Board-prescribed limits, and demonstrating measurable accomplishment of Board objectives. I'll work with the Board through a process of bringing our governance in line with our county constitution.
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Twitter: @VoteScottOttWebsite: www.VoteScottOtt.org