Blair County Prison warden named

Tate will be first female to hold top position

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A deputy warden at the Blair County Prison is taking over the job of warden.

Abbie L. Tate, who started as a corrections officer at the prison in 2005, has accepted the job of warden with a starting pay of $75,000.

Tate will succeed Mitch Cooper, a retired sheriff, and Robert Marsh, a state Department of Corrections employee, who have both served as acting wardens since the position became vacant in October, when Michael Johnston retired.

Tate attended Tuesday’s commissioners meeting where Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. acknowledged that she had been selected from the final three candidates who were chosen from more than 80 applicants.

“She really did stand out in her interviews and in experience,” said Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron who chairs the prison board. “Her institutional knowledge at the prison is

unsurpassed.”

Beam also described Tate as well-versed on prison-related issues.

“She knows the problems and has some ideas on how to fix the problems,” Beam said.

Last year, the county prison underwent an evaluation by the state Department of Corrections that yielded multiple recommendations that officials declined to disclose for fear of exposing safety hazards or creating safety risks. Prison board members have referenced the need for facility improvements, including additional surveillance cameras, and additional staffing.

But staffing at the prison has been a longtime issue, as reflected in overtime costs and turnover. The prison also has been the site of inmate and staff assaults, with some incidents generating criminal charges.

Milliron said that Marsh, Cooper and Tate, in recent months, have initiated changes to accomplish about 90 percent of the state’s non-monetary recommendations, but there’s more work to do.

“I have a lot of confidence that Warden Tate will keep working on these issues,” Milliron said.

Commissioner Terry Tomassetti, who also sits on the prison board, also supported Tate’s selection.

“We have significant problems at the prison and she doesn’t have to identify them because she’s lived through them,” Tomassetti said.

Other people seeking the warden’s position were fine candidates, Tomassetti said.

“But we have the need for quick resolution of such issues and will be better served by someone who knows what the issues are,” Tomassetti said.

Tate has been the prison’s deputy warden since May 2016 when she was elevated to that post from a position of treatment supervisor. She will be the county’s first female warden at the prison. She holds a degree in criminology from Mount Aloysius College and is a graduate of Juniata Valley High School in Alexandria, Huntingdon County.

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