Emotional goodbye at Shapiro’s last meeting
NORRISTOWN » Josh Shapiro is leaving and county employees and longtime friends of the Attorney General-elect lined up to sing his praises at the Montgomery County commissioner’s last meeting.
For the final hour of the board’s first meeting of the year, Shapiro’s county career flashed before his eyes as the Ghost of Administrations Past — Bruce L. Castor Jr. — returned to the Norristown board room to give a speech about his former commissioner colleague.
“Josh Shapiro was the best county commissioner we could have possibly had at that time and that included myself. And for those of you who know me, how big a statement that is,” Castor joked. “Now the bigger question is, will he be as good an attorney general as I was?”
In Shapiro’s own parting words, he looked back fondly on the five years he spent, mostly as chairman of the board of commissioners, with Castor, former commissioner Leslie Richards, and now Chairwoman Val Arkoosh. He spoke broadly about public service and acutely about the public servants in Montgomery County.
“We figure things out and we got things done and they deserve so much credit,” Shapiro said of the county staff. “Working with them over these last five years has led to the incredible fulfillment I feel about my time here.”
Others who spoke of Shapiro’s leadership in Montgomery County included a number of department heads throughout the county, employees who had worked with Shapiro through several jobs and a video message from Richards, who is now the state’s secretary of transportation.
“The laughter is always genuine, the friendship is the real deal and my gratitude is absolutely heartfelt,” Richards said of her relationship with Shapiro. “The fact that our personal history as well as our professional history will be forever linked is something that I’m even more proud of.”
Before the parade of well-wishers stood at the podium, Arkoosh gave an emotional speech about her time serving with Shapiro, first on his 2011 transition team and then as his fellow commissioner when she was appointed to replace Richards.
“Those times have been balanced by exemplary graciousness like the two weeks you spent back in 2015 practicing how to pronounce Arkoosh over and over again,” she said, pausing to compose herself as she welled up with emotion.
The Montgomery County team gifted Shapiro with the gavel he held, but never used, as chairman, and the plunger box used to light the Christmas tree out-
side the courthouse. Shapiro asked that such a box be designed for the lighting ceremonies, perhaps, because even for a man of Jewish faith, he knows how to keep Christmas well.
“I really wanted to do a Christmas tree, Menorah, Kinara thing the first year, and they thought I was crazy and I was like I really want to do this. And then I found out we had a Christmas tree farm,” Shapiro recalled recently.
“That’s not quite what it is, it’s called the prison,” County Chief Operating Officer Lauren Lambrugo interjected.
“Well they have Christmas trees there. I said I really want to go cut a tree down, I had never done that before. Not too many Jewish guys have gotten to cut down Christmas trees,” he went on.
After recounting many memories with staff and constituents, but before his final meeting as commissioner adjourned, Attorney General-elect Shapiro, had plenty to say about his time in Montgomery County.
“We’ve proven that we can get things done. Now maybe that’s the unique nature that there’s just three of us that have to find consensus, but I actually think that it has more to do with the fact that this is where the rubber meets the road, and we have dedicated public servants who want to get the job done,” he said. “My hope for the future is that this board remembers the awesome power that it has to do good, in making the lives of people of Montgomery County better.”
Shapiro will resign from his post as commissioner affective Jan. 16, one day ahead of being sworn in as Pennsylvania Attorney General. He will not be leaving the county behind, however. He plans to stay in his home in Abington and travel between the township and Harrisburg.
“I so look forward to our paths crossing again and again and again,” he said in closing.
Montgomery County Commissioners said their goodbyes to Vice Chairman Josh Shapiro, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Shapiro will be sworn in as Pennsylvania Attorney General on Jan 17.