The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


November 24, 2010

Merle H. Phillips to become a Northumberland County commissioner

SUNBURY — Retiring State Rep. Merle Phillips and newly-elected state House member Kurt Masser will be switching political roles in January.

Phillips has been been appointed to fill the unexpired term of Masser on the county board of commissioners.

The announcement was made at noon today by President Judge Robert B. Sacavage.

Phillips, 82, is scheduled to retire at the end of the year after 30 years as a state representative in the 108th Legislative District. Masser was elected earlier this month as the state Representative in the 107th state House District, which includes a large portion of Northumberland County and all of Montour County.

Sacavage said he's choosing to vote for a candidate who won't seek election to the four-year seat in November 2011 because he doesn't want the appointment to give a "leg up" to a single candidate and require the interim commissioner to campaign soon after beginning their new duties.

That decision leaves out some of the 25 Republicans who expressed an interest in the position when county Republican Committee Chairman Beth Kremer asked candidates to apply for the vacancy earlier this month.

Among them is Sunbury attorney Richard "Rick" Shoch, who Tuesday said he still plans to run for the seat next year.

"I understand the judge's rationale," he said. "I don't think you can go wrong with Merle Phillips. It's like Clint Eastwood, he probably doesn't have to audition, and no one will regret this, if it in fact is Merle."

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