The Boyertown Area Times
Newest commissioner takes the oath of office
There aren’t very many people who would willingly put their normal lives on hold for 10 months.
There aren’t very many people who would assume an important political post on a strictly temporary basis. There aren’t many people who would put in countless hours of work knowing their time in office was fleeting.
Lucine Sihelnik is one of the few who would.
The former Reading City Council member and local small business owner on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 21, took the oath of office inside a Berks County courtroom, placing her hand on a Bible given to her by her father as she was sworn in as the county’s newest commissioner.
Sihelnik was selected by a panel of judges to fill a vacancy on the three-member board of commissioners left when Kevin Barnhardt stepped down to accept the job as the county’s new chief operations officer. She was picked last week from a pool of 22 applicants to be the lone Democrat on the board.
The 42-year-old Reading resident’s time in office will be short. Sihelnik will serve for the remainder of the year, vowing not to run in this year’s election to take over the post on a full-time basis — a promise that played a key role in her selection.
Following the brief swearing in ceremony, Sihelnik expressed excitement and gratitude over becoming the county’s newest commissioner.
“I appreciate everyone’s trust in me,” she said. “This is a true calling to be a public servant, and I look forward to the next 10 months.”
Sihelnik said her belief has always been that public servants
should truly serve the public, something she hopes to be able to do during her tenure.
“In my professional experience, I ultimately found that I enjoy working with others, working with local officials and, most importantly, working with constituents,” she said. “I’m going to try to bring change that makes sense for everyone.”
Her dedication to the public is also what’s behind her decision not to run to make her new job a long-term one. She said she thinks the panel of judges who selected her were right to pick a candidate who was not planning on running to be elected to the post.
“I really stand behind the decision of the board of judges to select someone who was not going to run,” she said. “That is a process that belongs to the people and there is an election coming and it will be up to them to choose.”
Sihelnik said that although her time in office will be short, she still plans to get a lot accomplished.
“I’m primarily focused on how I can help support the economic development component of being on the board,” she said. “As a new business owner I feel like I can bring insight from that perspective. And, clearly, the agricultural sector is something that I have been passionate about and working toward growing for many years.”
Sihelnik said she also hopes to be able to continue the cooperation and cohesiveness the commissioners have shown over the past few years.
“I think the most important thing over the next year is to really showcase the benefits of working in a collaborative spirit as an elected official,” she said. “This is beyond party politics, this is about being able to put the issues on the table and work through them in a professional process.”
Sihelnik’s new colleagues, Republicans Christian Leinbach and Michael Rivera, both attended Tuesday’s ceremony and expressed support for her selection.
Leinbach, the commissioners chairman, lauded her leadership skills.
“I first met Lucine when we were talking around continuing to keep the Penn Street Market going and take on a leadership role,” he said. “Lucine stepped up.”
Leinbach said he has also had the privilege of working with Sihelnik as part of the Berks Agricultural Resource Network. He’s been able to watch how she thinks, how she works her way through solving a problem.
And, Leinbach said, he has been impressed with Sihelnik’s success starting a local business. She and her husband, Balasios Lahaniatis, own the Great American Creamery in downtown Reading.
“I am so excited with the court selection of Lucine Sihelnik,” Leinbach said. “I know that she will be a great addition. My only disappointment, and she knows this, is that she’s not running for the position.”
Rivera said he is also looking forward to working with Sihelnik.
“I know your experience on city council, in the agricultural community and your small business background will be assets that you will bring to the board,” he said.