"She brings with her a tremendous commitment from the citizens' perspective about what is appropriate," he said.
Simms said Cushwa was one of the first people he met when he became secretary of the department last November.
"I immediately recognized her as a very intelligent and organized talent who has brought great things to the commission," he said.
Cushwa said she has tried to use her position to promote the rights of victims, especially of domestic violence.
She has worked to publicize the commission's open parole hearings to the public so victims can be a part of the process.
"At least they get a chance now to address what has happened to them. This does make them part of the entire criminal justice system," she said.
Cushwa has served in various state and local offices, including Williamsport Town Council, the state Board of Education and the Human Relations Commission.
She co-founded CASA (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused), which runs a shelter for battered women.
She has a master's degree in contemporary government and has worked part-time teaching at Hagerstown Junior College.
Cushwa is the widow of the late Sen. Victor Cushwa, who served in the General Assembly for 13 years.
In 1990, the year before he died, he was appointed to the Public Service Commission.
Patricia Cushwa was named to fill the final five months of his unexpired senate term. She lost in the election in the fall of 1990 to Sen. Donald F. Munson.