— At a special meeting Monday night, Supervisors Don Doney and Allen Wickle appointed township resident Rick Southerton to fill the seat left vacant with the recent passing of longtime supervisor Jack McDonald.
Originally from Hawley, Southerton graduated Wallenpaupack High School before enlisting in the Marine Corps. From there, he served as a reservist for eight years and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering before joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a career which culminated in his serving as the Case Agent on the Luzerne County corruption case which became known as the “Kids for Cash” scandal.
During his years with the bureau, Southerton also found time to earn a Masters in Adult Education from Seton Hall.
Still hoping to serve his native Wayne County following his retirement, Southerton unsuccessfully ran for county commissioner in the 2011 election.
Southerton says after McDonald’s passing, he casually mentioned to the remaining supervisors one day that he might be interested in serving on the board, but was pleasantly surprised when Supervisor Don Doney called him several days ago to inform him he had been chosen for the job.
“I’m not quite sure how they chose me over the other (candidates),” he said, “I didn’t expect it, but I’m happy they did. I want to be involved down there.”
At Monday’s meeting and reorganization, newly promoted Supervisor Chairman Don Doney said the reason Southerton was chosen over a small field of other candidates had more to do with his availability than anything else, followed by his ability and willingness to drive a plow truck and the benefits his engineering degree might offer the township.
The appointment will last only until the first Monday in the next election year (2014). Southerton says he isn’t against the idea of running for one of the two terms that will be up for grabs in that election, but he wants to “feel it out” before committing to anything.
“I don’t really know how things got done (before McDonald’s passing),” he said, “So I want to be there to see what the job entails. I realize how much (the supervisors) can affect your life with long-range planning, building codes and other things. I don’t agree with it all, but I want to be a part of it. I want to know who’s driving the ship. I don’t think its something you can stop, but you have to be involved to have any control over it.”
As president of the Buck’s Cove Rod and Gun Club, Southerton has butted heads with the supervisors several times in recent years — including an incident where the township charged the club a fee later ruled excessive by an appellate court judge. That case led to the ending of the club’s long-standing annual “Steak Bake” event, as well as another suit as the club tried — unsuccessfully — to recover part of the $2,800 fee for the event.
Southerton says he has also been to some relatively recent supervisors’ meetings that convinced him he didn’t want to return, due to the rancor exhibited both from the audience during public comment periods and occasionally even from the supervisors’ table.
This, he says, is something he would like to mitigate if possible, although he also says changing the way township business is run is not a priority for him.
“I’m not going to go in like a ball of fire looking to change anything,” he said, “I’m not sure there’s anything that needs to be changed. All I can say is I’ll do what I think is right. I will not be playing favorites. I am not going to be putting myself into a position where anyone can say anything other than ‘he did what he thought was right.’”