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Elliott, Plummer not seeking re-election

February 14, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The May 15 primary took on added significance Tuesday with the announcement by two of the three members of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners - Chairman G. Warren Elliott and Cheryl Plummer - that they will not seek a fourth term.

"This is the perfect time to run for re-election," Elliott, a Republican, said during a press conference at The Orchards Restaurant. "It is also the perfect time for change."

"I can make this decision in good conscience, knowing that this board has performed its job very well," said Plummer, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the board.

At the press conference, Commissioner Bob Thomas announced he will seek a fourth term.

"It's been 11 good years ... I feel I still have the desire to serve," said Thomas, a Republican.

The announcement came as a surprise to most of the elected officials, political allies and friends at the event.

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"I was taken aback. I did not see this coming," said Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross. "There's a tremendous leadership void to be filled."

Ross said he thought the press conference was going to be a joint re-election announcement.

"I hate to see two of them leave at once," said D. Eugene Gayman. "At least we'll have continuity with Bob."

Elliott and Plummer both said they want to devote more time to their families and pursuing other goals.

"I've been kicking it around for a couple of weeks," Plummer said later. The decision was made after talking with her family over the weekend, she said.

For Elliott, those pursuits include writing a book and marketing an invention. He kept the subject of the book close to his vest, but said the invention is tied to one of his recreational passions, fishing.

The announcements came on the first day of a petition-circulating period leading up to the primary. Candidates have until March 6 to collect the 100 signatures needed to appear on the ballot for their party's nomination.

Because they are not running, Elliott and Plummer will still serve on the county Election Board. A Republican will have to be named to replace Thomas, Elliott said.

As members of the Election Board, Plummer said she and Elliott will remain outside of primary politicking.

"We are not trying to designate or pick a successor," Elliott said. Tuesday's announcement, he said, leaves potential candidates plenty of time to get the necessary signatures.

Elliott ran down a long list of initiatives the county has undertaken and achieved, including a new prison, preserving more than 10,000 acres of prime farmland, expanding services for senior citizens and computerizing offices. On that last issue, he said the Commissioners Office had one computer, a Tandy TRS 80, in 1996.

"I had to bring my own answering machine," Thomas said.

When they took office, Elliott said major industries such as Pet-Ritz and J. Schoeneman Co. were shutting their doors; Fort Ritchie was closing; and Letterkenny Army Depot was losing jobs. The county was looking at the possibility of double-digit unemployment, he said.

The county now has the lowest jobless rate in Pennsylvania, a county tax rate lower than any neighboring county and low debt, he said.

"When times are good, it's a better time for transition," he said.

Elliott, 52, served an interim appointment on the board in 1987 after commissioner Fred Rock resigned, but he did not run for election that year. Plummer, 57, has been on the board since 1994, appointed to fill out the term of the late commissioner Dennis Zeger.

Thomas, 52, said the three did not always agree, but always worked together, and said he will continue to support initiatives favored by Elliott and Plummer, such as farmland preservation and the county's human- service agencies. He also said he will continue to work on issues he has supported over the years, including preserving Letterkenny Army Depot and promoting cooperation between county and municipal governments.

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