By Sandy Rhodes
ERIE — Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper will not see re-election when her term expires at the end of 2021.
Dahlkemper announced her decision in an email on Dec. 15.
“It has been an absolute privilege to serve as the county executive for Erie County for what will be eight years,” Dahlkemper said.
“This has been the most important work in my life and I will remain active and continue to devote my life to this work until my last day in office,”
Dahlkemper said by making her announcement now, she can focus on the work at hand — COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is still a lot to be done and by announcing this now, I can concentrate fully on helping eradicate this pandemic and other priorities more important than running a campaign,” she said.
Dahlkemper said she was proud with the work she and her team have done for Erie County.
“During my time in county government, my administration has prepared an excellent infrastructure that is poised for the next county executive. I am very proud of the talent of people we have brought in as well as the collaboratiosns we have built with our local partners,” she said. “We have accomplished several groundbreaking achievements in my two terms and I look foward to the fresh ideas of the next leader in 2022 while I consider other opportunities.”
Dahlkemper, in an interview with the WCNJ, said she is proudest of the Next Generation Public Radio System she was able to bring to the county.
“The complexity of that project and getting all the municipalities to come on board and say ‘yes’ to it was one of the first hurdeles,” she said, lauding the efforts of John Grappy, the county’s director of public safety, in bringing that project to fruition.
“It was a $26 million investment that will pay off by saving lives.”
Dalhkemper said the need for a new radio system was apparant after the 1985 tornado that devastated Albion. The project was continually delayed unil she was in office.
“It was an expensive endeavor that no one was willing to take on and make a priorty,” she said.
Another thing Dahlkemper was proud of his bringing the many voices in Erie County to meld into one for the sake of the county.
“1 created a better sense of collaboration between elected officials in the the communities,” Dahlkemper said. “I wanted to make sure we were working toward the same goals and present one voice to Harrisburg. I think I have helped to make that happen.”
Dalhkemper added there were many internal issues in county government that the public are probably not aware of that she helped fix.
For instance, before Dalhkemper took her place in county government, each department had its own IT department.
“We had no backup,” Dahlkemper said. “There was one person in each department and if they weren’t there, there was no one.”
By consolidating the equipment, too, the county saves millions of dollars in hardware costs.
“There were a lot of cost savings in moderniziation of the IT department,” she said.
She also said her help in bringing economic growth to the area is another big accomplishment.
Dahlkemper said as of right now, she has no plans on what her next move may be because she is focused on combatting COVID-19 in Erie County.
“I have always found that when I walk away from one thing, another door will open,” she said. “I will find other ways to serve the community.”
And when she does finally take the nameplate off her desk, she plans to travel with her husband and spend more time with family after 14 years of splitting time between the areas she served and her family.
“I would like to assure people that I will be working until the next county executive is in office January of 2022,” Dahlkemper said. “I will try to continue to make good things happen for Erie County.”
In 2013, Dahlkemper defeated then-Erie County Executive Barry Grossman in the primary with 52% of the vote.
She then defeated Don Tucci, the Republican nominee in the general election.
In 2017, Dahlkemper topped Republican opponent Art Oligeri with 50.15% of the vote.
Dahlkemper’s foray into politics was on the national stage when she unseated then-Rep. Phil English, a Republican, to represent the 3rd Congressional District. Dahlkemper served in that capacity from 2009 to 2011.
Dahlkemper, 63, was then unseated by current Rep. Mike Kelly.