To our visionary members,
By now everyone is aware that the Chairman of the Dauphin County Commissioners Jeff Haste has decided to retire from public life after 19 years as Chair of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners. I had the pleasure of attending his final public meeting as a Commissioner on May 26th. It was a mix of emotions, appropriate tribute and reflection on his time with Dauphin County.
He made County Government better, which helped make Dauphin County better. He stepped up to help the City of Harrisburg along with his colleagues and was a willing partner with local government, local agencies, business and other counties on regional initiatives.
One of the things I find most impressive is the organizational culture change he brought to Dauphin County government. It’s a big organization and those of us who study organizational cultures understand changing a regimented, government entity’s culture is challenging. Jeff and his colleagues over the years managed to positively move the culture to one of true service to the citizens of the county, and you see this reflected in the dedication of the county staff.
On a personal note, Jeff and I have known each other since the mid-1980s. We figure it has been about 38 years following my years as a Western PA County Commissioner while he was a top aide to the Secretary of State in the Thornburg Administration, then Chief Clerk and State Rep to my Ridge Official at PA DCED. Finally, Jeff moved to Dauphin County Commissioner while I took my role here at the Chamber & CREDC. I really can’t say enough good things about our professional and personal relationship.
I have two favorite projects working with Jeff’s leadership. First is the retention of what is today known as the Great American Outdoor Show. We brought together a number of very different interests for the common purpose of taking a show that was lost, recreating it, and turning it into a win/win for Dauphin County hotels, restaurants, retail and other businesses alike. That show, hosted annually in February, cements Dauphin County’s standing as one of the top tourism destinations in Pennsylvania.
The other project was the proposal to Amazon for its HQ2 project back in 2017. Admittedly, it was a Hail Mary pass to pitch the Harrisburg State Hospital grounds as the site for this mega job creation project to the fastest-growing business in the world. Once again, it started with bringing together groups of people with different backgrounds and interests to focus on a common goal. The leadership and support of the Dauphin County Commissioners was outstanding. We collectively put together a virtual picture of the future site and built partnerships from South Central Pennsylvania to State College. We told a really good story of our home in Central PA and received statewide and national attention for our bold and creative leadership. Jeff’s steady hand and ability to gain financial support from the county through him, Mike Pries and George Hartwick were invaluable to a great proposal.
Throughout the years, Jeff and I could occasionally be seen at the Front St Diner over coffee and breakfast getting caught up on items of mutual interest for Dauphin County and the Chamber & CREDC, as well as swapping pictures and stories of our kids and grandkids.
Neither Jeff nor I are going very far as we start the next part of our life’s journey. I’m not sure either of us know what we want to be when we grow up, but as two friends who moved to the Harrisburg Region, we both care deeply about this region. Speaking for myself only, I suspect we will hear more from Jeff Haste, but for now, on behalf of our members, committees, boards, volunteer officers, staff and myself, a very, very sincere thank you for your service to Dauphin County, our region, our Commonwealth and for your vision for a better future.