In the just-completed election campaign, the differences between the Republican and Democratic candidates for the board of commissioners in Washington County regarding the position of director of human services were interesting and enlightening.

Usually, Democrats expand the number of government employees, while Republicans favor fewer "bureaucrats." But this year, Republicans Diana Irey Vaughan and Nick Sherman were willing to reimagine the position of human services director. As the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor last year, I advocated for a single point of entry for all state-provided human services. Poverty, addiction, health and education all interact in families. No citizen should have to visit multiple offices to get information regarding their options. The Republican candidates were willing to bring this approach to Washington County.

When county services are provided through multiple government departments and private contractors, no one is held accountable for success or failure. In fact, no one even measures success or failure. Vaughan attempted to reform human services under a modernized director’s office, but lacked a second vote to do so.

Washington County has focused reasonably well on the drug addiction issue, but may be over-emphasizing the criminal side. For every addict, there is probably a spouse, child, or parent that also needs assistance. Job training and education, safe housing, child care and many other factors contribute to both addiction and poverty. A director of human services could be the beginning of an integration of multiple offices into a single department of human services, one that would deal with individuals and families in a coordinated and measurable way.

Kathleen Smith


Smith was the Libertarian Party's candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania in 2018.