Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Partisan Vitriol over Tredyffrin Interim Supervisor Appointment – Local Politics Should Set a Better Example

For many years I have attended Tredyffrin Township supervisor meetings and for the most part, they have been relatively congenial. Sadly, last night the behavior of some does not represent the community that I know and that I love.

It was painful to sit in the audience and watch the partisan battle waged over who should fill the District 1 (East) vacancy left by the resignation of long-serving Republican supervisor Paul Olson. The interim appointed supervisor serves 4-1/2 months, until the end of 2019.

Four qualified residents applied for the interim supervisor seat – Julie Gosse (D), Raffi Terzian (R), Judy DiFilippo (R) and Bryan Humbarger (R). Democrat Gosse and Republican Raffi are the endorsed candidates for the District 1 (East) and will appear on the November ballot. All four candidates were interviewed by the supervisor personnel committee (Murph Wysocki (D), Kevin O’Nell (D) and Heather Greenberg (R)) in a public meeting a couple of weeks ago. The Board of Supervisors currently holds a Democrat majority that would not change with the selection of a Republican interim supervisor.

It was obvious from the moment that we arrived, that the results of the interim supervisor appointment were known before the vote was taken. With a Democrat majority board, of course the vote count would go to the D candidate. And conversely, if the Board of Supervisors was in the hands of the Republicans, undoubtedly the vote would go to an R candidate. Therefore the selection of Democrat candidate Julie Gosse for the District 1 (East) interim supervisor seat was assumed.

As an Independent (and a realist) – I was actually OK with the knowledge that the selection process had already happened before the meeting started – that’s politics. What was not OK was what happened next. From the moment that the chair of the Board of Supervisors Murph Wysocki made the motion to appoint Julie Gosse as interim supervisor the meeting quickly spiraled into a political battle.

It would be impossible for me to explain the partisan vitriol and the back and forth. Looking around the room, it was obvious that other residents had the same uncomfortable feeling watching as myself. Our community deserves better and our elected officials should be held to a higher standard.

America’s national political scene is rife with polarization and dysfunction but I naively thought that here in Tredyffrin Township we all get along. As the Republicans and Democrats battle over national concerns, guess I believed that at the local level we are all neighbors and friends first and political party second. After witnessing the partisan attacks at last night’s meeting that view is forever changed. Candidates should be evaluated on more than the D or the R after their name. Local politics should set a better example.

I encourage everyone to watch the video of the supervisor meeting and draw your own conclusion. Here’s the link and the interim supervisor appointment begins at timestamp 46.03.

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  1. I listened to the video at time stamp 46:03 on.

    Heather Greenberg and Trip Lukens gave their opinions and votes in a professional manner and appropriate tone.
    I don’t understand Mark Freeds projection of anger, resentment, blame and hostility. His D candidate was appointed and she was always going to be appointed. There was no reason for his outbursts toward Ms. Greenberg, Mr. Lukens and Dr. Terzian.

    I had no opinion on the pick until the woman from Chesterbrook spoke and made the great point that the pick should not have a candidate who is on the ballot for Supervisor in November. I agree with this. It gives an unfair advantage to Dr. Gosse and will make the process awkward and uncomfortable in the execution of public business.

    I enjoyed listening to her Mother speak about Dr. Gosse. I liked hearing that her Dad is a R and that they have respectful discussions with Dr. Gosse doing a lot of listening.

  2. The supervisors need to watch the rerun of their performance and see if it represents their best self. For the sake of the public, I hope it doesn’t.

  3. Make no mistake national politics is in our backyard. The Ds had their choice in the seat as soon as the vacancy was announced so why the partisan rant. Time will tell if the new supervisor lives up to the hype.

    1. A curious observation about D’s is that not only are they sore losers, they are also sore winners. They don’t know how to win and they don’t know how to lose. Either way, they attack their opponents and make themselves look really bad doing it. Why would you disparage and assault a group of citizens you just beat in a race? I don’t get it. Have you ever seen an athlete berate a respected opponent after they just won the game? Tom Brady hugs his opponents. Great performers and leaders show deep respect and empathy for those they just achieved victory over…..they show true empathy, not hate. Embarrassed to be a citizen here.

  4. As an registered independent voter, I did not see that there was a large problem. The “rant” was in response to accusations from the floor, including an unnecessary commentary and complaint about the D candidate’s positions on electronic billboards and historical sites as the speaker did not feel that the candidate had displayed enough support, while the speaker had been clearly intimately involved, so wanted to show her primary involvement. This was a selfish display in itself, and not necessary. For myself looking at the candidates, Dr. Grosse is an excellent choice. She brings new views, a younger voice, a keen mind that will pick up quickly on the nuances of the job. Her background demonstrated her ability to digest, integrate, assemble, and understand data in short order. I know as my own background and professional history is similar to her’s, and am aware of the needs. This does not mean that some of the others could not fill the seat, but Dr. Grosse will bring a fresh outlook to the needs of the township, not just a repeat of previously held local politicians. She is what we need locally, and nationally.

  5. A curious comment by an anonymous “Embarrassed citizen”, who clearly saw Dr. Gosse’s appointment process through a different lens than those of us who remember clearly the years of Republican boards making only Republican appointments, regardless of the qualifications of any Democrats who put their names forward. As BOS chair, Bob Lamina once announced to all present and to TTTV viewers that given a choice, he would “never choose a Democrat.” Mike Heaburg was appointed to the BOS in 2011 when it was known by all Republican supervisors that he would be a candidate that year. Paul Olson, on occasion, pointed out – with mic on – “She/he is a Democrat!” when a citizen would come up to the microphone to make a comment. Partisan prerogative was unchecked for almost all of the 33 years I have lived in Tredyffrin. After 312 years, as of the November 2018 election, a Democratic majority reflects the demographic changes that have taken place in this township. Currently, there are about 600 more registered Democrats in Tredyffrin and a shrinking number of Republicans.

    That being said, I do believe that every elected official in this township cares far more about making decisions that are in the best interest of our community than in partisan politics. Those who serve on the BOS and SB spend many hours in each others’ company and strive to work together to keep our community a desirable place to live. On Monday night, I heard every supervisor acknowledge all four candidates as eminently qualified and thank them for putting their names forward. Remarks by Supervisor Freed, whom I know to be a very decent man of moderate political views, were in response to remarks made by what I would call sore losers. The reference to the “Democratic political machine” was guffaw-worthy given the 9 month-old majority in over 300 years. The fact that Dr. Terzian is not only a candidate for supervisor but the duly elected chair of Tredyffrin’ s Republican Party made the cry of “playing politics” laughable.

    Partisan politics have certainly become an unavoidable part of our lives, but on the local level, I see good people – volunteers, essentially – put politics aside and do what they believe is best.

    1. “Partisan politics have certainly become an unavoidable part of our lives, but on the local level, I see good people – volunteers, essentially – put politics aside and do what they believe is best.” This statement is laughable coming from you! Aren’t you the Chair of the TTDEMS? When did YOU ever put politics aside!!

      1. I stand by my observation that once elected, most of our local supervisors and school board members have been committed to working together with fellow members and in the best interest of the community. That members had/have differences in their beliefs about the role of government and the level of taxation needed to pay for essential and desirable services has been evident over the years. In a bi-partisan environment, such discussion is welcome.

        To Berwyn Voter:I don’t take seriously your anonymous accusation. IMO, it takes no courage or conviction to hurl insults at others on a blog. As the outgoing chair of the TTDEMS, I am proud to have helped vet and support Democratic candidates, and win elections. That was my job. I have never claimed to be apolitical.

        But I can tell you that once elected, the candidates I have supported over the last 14 years (when the first Democrats were elected in Tredyffrin) have been independent decision makers. No party chair held sway over their votes. And no Democratic elected official has ever served as a party official, which is a conflict of interest. The TTDEMS expect CP’s and party officers to resign if and when they decide to run for office.

        In contrast, Raffi Terzian, the chair of the Republican Party, is running for supervisor. The former TTRC chair also ran for office while chair. Liz Mercogliano served as an elected Republican committeeperson while sitting on the school board. Michele Kichline and Kristen Mayock served as R-committeepeople while elected supervisors. Let’s talk politics but do so truthfully.

        Doug Anestad you commented, “Kathleen Keohane has never once in the years I have watched local politics put politics aside for the community.” And you would know… Yes, Doug, I actively worked to elect your opponent in the 2017 SB race. But that’s no reason to hold a grudge, right?

        1. Kathleen,

          Thank-you for this information.

          contrast, Raffi Terzian, the chair of the Republican Party, is running for supervisor. The former TTRC chair also ran for office while chair. Liz Mercogliano served as an elected Republican committeeperson while sitting on the school board. Michele Kichline and Kristen Mayock served as R-committeepeople while elected supervisors. Let’s talk politics but do so truthfully.

          I don’t know what a committee person is or does and can’t unferstand why it’s a conflict of interest to be a committee person in your party and then run for office. Thanks.

          Let’s be honest about everything here. Doug’s opponent could have been Daffy Duck and the Duck would have won. That was a blue wave triggered by Trump backlash. With your logic then, citizens liked and wanted to vote for inexperienced, just graduated from college, 22 year old Heather Ward over professional, highly credentialed, very experieced Doug Carlson and Virginia Lastner. Heather did a great job. I like her a lot and was sorry to see her go but no way she or Tina would have won at any other time.

          Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I remember thinking at the time that the only R to come out victorious at the time was Betsy Fadem.

          You do work very hard Kathleen but it wasn’t necessary last time around.

        2. Kathleen,

          You also say that:

          That members had/have differences in their beliefs about the role of government and the level of taxation needed to pay for essential and desirable services has been evident over the years. In a bi-partisan environment, such discussion is welcome.

          Your phrase “essential and desirable services” is interesting to me.

          —-Is a $4M to $6M maintenance building essential?

          —-Are outlandish raises for Administrators and teachers on top of their already outlandish salaries essential, especially while at the same time we have cut TENIG salaries and benefits and then outsourced ESSENTIAL services like Aides and Paras?

          The District Blames “the rising costs of special education” every year to justify tax increases while they are completely silent about and ignore that what really drives tax increases —— their outlandish salaries and benefits. I would call special education an essential service. I would not call outlandish salaries and outlandish salary increases essential, especially given that those receiving the outlandish compensation are the very same people who blame tax increases on everything but their outlandish salaries and increases.


          What do you consider to be an essential service?

    2. Berwyn Voter, to answer your question, Kathleen Keohane has never once in the years I have watched local politics put politics aside for the community. She is right to say that in the distant past the Republicans did not always behave appropriately. That was when they had a solid grip on power. Now that the Democrats are have a solid grip on power, they are behaving in the same awful manner. I guess the saying absolute power corrupts absolutely is true. For the record, in terms of voters, there are currently around 9,300 Democrats, 8,600 Republicans, and 4,000 others (independents, etc). That means that 43% of Tredyffrin are registered as Democrats and after this next election they will probably be 100% of the locally elected officials.

      It would be nice instead of words if the Board of Supervisors finished work on local issues like funding for emergency services, passed an ordnance to slow down the high density residential building, pass the historic preservation ordinance, and passed a digital billboard ordinance. Instead, some of the newer board members seem to want to tell the state what to do instead of doing their job, which is local governance.

      It would be nice instead of words if the School Board removed a business manager who covered up over a million dollars in accounting errors, lied about it for two years, and when the coverup was discovered, lied about the ability to fix the errors. It would be nice if they stopped wasting millions of dollars on bond issues by ignoring the public and then getting the bonds years before they are needed, getting larger amounts than are necessary at the time, and in general stopped believing the proven liar who is their business manager, Art McDonnell – who happens to be paid $209k a year despite his lying and horrible performance. Instead, the school board is giving him a nice pay raise and bonus this coming year. Nice message being sent there.

      Having all R’s or all D’s does not equate to better governance. Even though all the politicians say that they will put the community first, I have seen most of them more eager to appease their political bosses than making the hard decisions necessary for the betterment of our community. I highly encourage people to vote the person, not the party. Do your research and become an informed voter.

  6. I was dismayed by the performances as well. But the replies here seem to take on a GOP slant. BOTH sides were guilty of inappropriate comments. Mark Freed? Definitely. But mostly in response to the commentary of Republican candidate Raffi Terzian shedding “crocodile tears” over the politicizing of the process. Please! The ONLY thing that matters is whether the candidates are qualified for the job. The overwhelming answer seemed to be yes. The fact that it then took on partisan bent should be of no surprise or no show of outrage by anyone. As Pattye said, that’s the way things have always gone. But to paraphrase Supervisor Matt Holt, the Democratic supervisors are in the majority because they received the majority of the votes from Township voters. Want to change it? Fine. Just don’t present yourselves as victims.

  7. It’s nice that, as TE Taxpayer said, Trip Lukens and Heather Greenberg used a “professional manner and appropriate tone”. Of course, it’s easier to do that when you’re the one who is lobbing inaccurate, partisan charges at the other party instead of being the one having your integrity questioned. Trip Lukens set the partisan tone when he used loaded terms like “Democratic machine” and”petty partisan advantage”.

    Then, Trip went on to make an apparently inaccurate charge that he had been prevented from interviewing the candidates (only to have this refuted by Murph Wysocki). Heather Greenberg piled on with her insinuations about the need for supervisors to recuse themselves. It’s no wonder Mark Freed was passionate in his defense. And, we all know that, as Pattye said, if the Republicans had been in control, a Republican would have been chosen. So, enough of this “holier than thou” attitude, please.

    This was not about a supervisor being a sore loser. This was about having your integrity questioned in a public meeting by other supervisors who wanted to chalk up some “petty partisan” points themselves.

    All that said, I agree that it would be nice if we could prevent the partisanship at the top from filtering down more than it already has.

  8. I think the matter could have been less dramatic. President Wysocki gave a ridiculously long speech, The facts were that the young inexperienced Gosse would be picked fairly or unfairly. She has minimal work experience, minimal financial experience, no legal or accounting background.
    When I choose my doctor, dog walker or hair dresser I look for experience professionals.
    I don’t choose a person who has no Board experience and no budgeting experience other than grant writing and a small business?
    Everybody has a PhD now a days but not everyone has municipal and finance experience.
    And Murph lied about the fact that Gosse supported the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust.
    Ms. Benson was infuriated stating “Gosse never attended a lecture, a house tour or any other Historic Preservation function, Really she supports it how?
    And finally, Mr. Freed blew a gasket in front of minors complaining about Rs.
    All in all, the BOS should get a handle on their words and timing.
    Every citizen has a right to voice their opinion.

    1. You have an interesting approach to developing a cooperative, bipartisan working relationship with other members of the board you hope to join. It’s particularly ironic since this thread is dedicated to criticizing “Partisan Vitriol”.

      You start right off criticizing the length of the Chairperson’s speech. Then, you criticize the ultimate choice because she doesn’t have the experience you want her to have. It may well be that we don’t need yet another attorney or real estate businessperson on the board. Someone with training in the sciences could bring a much needed, different perspective. Even the Republican members of the board spoke highly of her qualifications.

      As far as your contention that “Everybody has a PhD nowadays”, you must definitely run in different circles than I do. Not to mention a Ph.D. in Neuroscience can’t be very common even in your circle.

      I also didn’t see or hear anything from Mr. Freed that would traumatize the “minors” there. He got passionate when his integrity was questioned by some people who should know better. He didn’t yell or curse.

      Finally, you outright accuse Murph Wysocki of lying. All he said was that Julie Gosse supported historic preservation, not that she attended all the meetings, or was on the board. Just that she supported it. How do you know she doesn’t? I support the environment but I don’t attend meetings of the Environmental Advisory Council.

      All in all, some surprising comments from someone who is posting on a thread criticizing undue partisanship. I’m also curious as to why you didn’t express your reservations at the meeting. You expressed gratitude that everyone was civil in front of Julie Gosse’s kids which I thought was very nice of you. However, your comments here express quite a different tone.

  9. I listened to the whole discussion. I saw a very committed and engaged discussion. Politics I guess will always be here. I did not see any vitriol – just different opinions. Patti is being a bit exaggerated.

    1. Perhaps it plays better when you watch the video. What I witnessed at Monday’s meeting was not the norm from years of attending these meetings.

    2. Love that political committee people feel compelled to defend the actions of their elected officials. First we had Ms. Keohane, chair of the Dems with a political rant and here is Ms. Guido, another committee person for the Dems. Makes you wonder why they feel they have to defend their fellow Ds.

  10. Clearly, we all have too much time on our hands? I switch back and forth between parties, based upon elections at the state and national level, but I see very little difference at the township level. The difference is imperceptable. We all value our schools and have a shared and common interest in preserving our property values: at the local level these are the things that count.

  11. I think that both sides take some blame here. However, the tone was set from the beginning by the chair, Murph Wysocki. There were three things wrong with how he presided over that agenda item.

    The first was that he should have started with some background on the process such discussing the formation of the personnel committee, the people who served on the personnel committee, the interview process, etc. instead of starting with a political speech.

    The second is that he really should not have made a motion as the chair. Chairs are highly discouraged from making motions as they are supposed to run the meetings in a neutral fashion. While he is technically allowed, it is very bad form. Robert’s Rules encourage chairs who want a motion to proceed to say things like “can I get a motion…” instead of making it themselves.

    The third is that instead of giving a quick comment on why he was going to vote for a person, he gave a five and a half minute political speech.

    What was so weird about the situation is how unnecessary the whole thing was. The Democrats already knew how it was going to turn out. Why make it into a political show? It was a sad time for our community and hope that it doesn’t repeat again.

    1. So, it wasn’t Trip Lukens questioning the entire process and incorrectly stating that he wasn’t permitted to interview candidates that worsened the tone early on. Nor was it Heather Greenberg implying that Rich Freed should recuse himself. Nor was it Raffi Terzian saying the supervisors were making a “politically expedient” decision. No, it was a 5 minute speech from Murph Wysocki filled with positive comments about a candidate. That’s interesting.

      Robert’s Rules also says this about a member:”…under no circumstances can he attack or question the motives of another member.” So there’s that.

      1. I stated that both sides take some blame. I could easily point out things that 3 or 4 supervisors did that were not appropriate during that meeting. Those supervisors were from both parties.

        However, fundamentally, there is a hierarchy for keeping meetings in order and on task. The people in order of importance to that are

        1) The chair
        2) The other supervisors
        3) Legal counsel
        4) General public

        I choose to focus on the chair because he or she is ultimately responsible for the meeting.

        I like Murph. I think he is a good guy and has done good things for our community over the years.

        I also think that Murph really screwed up on this one. I think that he needs to focus on not making political speeches in the future as chair. It is bad form. Period.

        If Murph wants to be the chair of the TTDEMs, then he should do that. If he wants to be chair of the supervisors, he should do that. The should not try to be both at the same time.

        I hope that Murph sees this as a mistake, learns from it, and doesn’t repeat it. Then we can all move on and work towards continuing to make Tredyffrin a great place to live.

        The thing about being in charge is that everyone want to be in charge. However, there are responsibilities that come with being in charge.

  12. I attended the BOS meeting on Monday night. As the daughter of Paul Olson, it was important for me to be there, as it has been a part of my life too for past 34 years. My dad is a true public servant and dedicated to this this township that he is so extraordinarily proud of. If you know my dad, or cared to get to know him, you know that he answered every call, read every letter, and invited everyone to come sit in our living room and offered them Coke and candy while meeting on concerns, wants, or needs. Listening to, working with, and helping his constituents is his passion. – regardless of party. Being the father of three kids with ranging political registrations (R, D, I), he was no stranger to understanding all sides. Additionally, he loves touting the accomplishments of the police and fire companies (his son-in-law being an active, Pro Board Certified volunteer firefighter for Paoli) and having family and guests tour the historical sites of the township is hot on his to do list.
    When the announcement of his resignation was made at the township meeting in July, I was proud to be in the audience. I was touched to hear the kind words of Murph Wysocki, Mark Freed, Heather Greenberg, and Trip Lukens. Serving on the board meant a lot to my dad, and I appreciated hearing about some of the specific contributions that he made both to the board and to the township more generally. But what meant the most to me were the comments that captured who my dad was and what he was all about during his 34 years of service – someone who believed that everyone matters, that everyone deserves to be heard, and that everyone should get a fair shake. This unique situation with a Supervisor that had so much history and commitment in the position, which could be because he had no aspirations to use the BOS for political advancement, but just to help the community he cared for. I was optimistic that the selection of the interim Supervisor would, both in process and in person, honor his legacy in that respect at least.
    I was disappointed in what I saw on Monday night. What I saw was on Monday night was not about this community or about public service, or about everyone mattering. It was certainly not about everyone getting a fair shake. It was about politics and about using power to gain an advantage that I don’t think was deserved. Is this where we are in Tredyffrin Township in 2019?
    When I walked into the meeting, I sat directly behind Julie Gosse and her family. It was clear that a decision had been made even prior to the vote. Ok. But what was alarming was hearing the Chairman Wysocki say that Gosse was the right choice for now “and for the future”. Wow, I thought, so that’s the game. For all of the skills and qualifications of the various candidates and all of the statements that could be made about honoring my dad’s legacy this was only going to be about one thing – party affiliation and giving the Democratic candidate a head start going into November’s election.
    The board had choices. Well qualified choices who could hit the ground running. While I understand and get that a Democrat heavy board would and could appoint a Democrat, I wouldn’t have thought that, in good conscience, they would select a candidate on the ballot in the fall.
    Who is representing the seniors? Who understands their concerns and needs? With the SLF’s continuing to be built here, seniors represent a decent part of the township. There is a changing demographic in the community and it is not just with school aged kids. Along the SLF line, the board had an opportunity to select a firefighter who could bring valuable perspective to the safety of the community and also offer knowledge of the strain it brings to the first responders. Both Judy and Brian are personal friends of dad’s and either of their appointments would have offered a nice transition to see out the last four months of his term, as well as give the East that voted for him a voice they elected – and not impact the Democratic majority of the board.
    Freed called these options Republicans. It can’t be any clearer that this was a political move, which may be why he became infuriated and offered a series of excuses to justify the vote.
    To say that Gosse is opposed to the digital billboard is like saying she is opposed to being bitten by a shark. No one wants that. I have not read or heard of one resident in favor of the billboard and there were several that brought up safety. Pattye Benson stood up and led the digital billboard charge and dedicated a ton of time and energy to the effort from day one. Similarly, is there anyone not in favor of historical preservation?
    So yes, it would be fair to say that the appointment of a Democrat is not a surprise, but an active candidate? That’s cute. Let the voters decide in the fall. Give the candidates a fair and equal chance. Trip Lukens was right on the money when he said the political machine was behind it. It’s political. Just own it.
    This is what everyone hates about national politics. If you want to change the tone, start locally. We ought to be better than that.

    1. Such a wonderfully thoughtful response Kris. Your words are important, thank you for sharing them.

      I don’t recall ever hearing your father raise his voice or speak unkindly to anyone. I may not have always agreed with your father’s decisions but he was fair and always a true gentleman. His family, our community and the people that live here truly mattered to him. You are right that there was never a phone call or email that went unanswered; Paul was never too busy for any of us! He made a difference in many lives and in the organizations that he supported. His love of our local history and its preservation was evident always and the Trust is grateful for his many years of support.

      Thank you Kris!

    2. Your father gave much to our community for over 40 years and his style of leadership is exactly what we need now. As the saying goes, like father, like daughter, your words do him justice. Thank you Kristin!

  13. Kristin,

    I enjoyed reading your comment very much. Thank-you.

    To all,

    I didn’t attend the meeting but listened and watched the tape. 20 people polled will render 20 different interpretations, critiques and opinions about what people say and why in a politically charged township meeting tasked with making a decision that will leave some residents very happy and others not so happy.

    Wysocki, Greenberg and Lukens made powerful, politically charged statements to their constituents and to each other. I didn’t find their words or their manner or tone offensive in any way. I could listen to them and understand their points and feelings about the matter. It is clear they are good people who have opinions they care about but more important, they can express them in appropriate respectful ways.

    Mark Freed should not be on this Board or any Board. He doesn’t have the temperament. His anger went way beyond passion into hatred and that’s the last thing this Board or any Board needs.

    At any Board meeting but especially when passions run high like this one, we need Board Members who can bring people togrther, not tear them further apart.

  14. I’m not totally sure how many (if any) issues in the township can be split between R’s and D’s. The BOS is not deciding or voicing the national political issues we are all familiar about. What should be more concerning is that the Chair and Vice-Chair of the BOS have created a nice little click with the addition of Grosse, who will probably be smart enough to know she was carried into office because of their efforts.

    Decisions critical to both the Chair and Vice-Chair now already have three votes.

    Now that’s quiet power.

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