BEDFORD - Bedford County Commissioner Steve Howsare announced his resignation Tuesday as he prepares to take the helm of the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, an Altoona-based regional nonprofit that directs federal and state funds toward business training and assistance.
Howsare said his resignation will take effect Feb. 2, the day before he officially replaces outgoing commission Executive Director Ed Silvetti. Bedford County President Judge Thomas S. Ling will select his replacement on the county board shortly afterward, he said.
As planning commission director, Howsare will oversee millions of dollars in grants used for workforce training and business development over Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Huntingdon, Somerset and Fulton counties.
"I wasn't necessarily looking, but it's too good of an opportunity to pass up," Howsare said.
Silvetti, a 20-year commission veteran, said the group's directors made the right choice in Howsare, who at 10 years is the Bedford board's most senior member.
Having worked with groups like the Bedford County Development Association and wrangled with the state for funds, Howsare is suited for work with the commission, Silvetti said.
While the six-county authority is financially stable, Silvetti said, Howsare will have to contend with dwindling state and federal funds as the years go by.
"There's not just as much public support, in terms of financing, at either the federal or state level for anything that costs money," he said.
The commission's broad responsibilities include training for local government officials, setting the state's priorities on local transportation and offering low-interest loans to small and medium businesses. It works with other job-training groups, like Goodwill Industries and the Private Industry Council of Centre County, as subcontractors, according to federal filings.
The development commission's officers chose Howsare in a Wednesday vote, after months narrowing down a "significant number" of applicants, Silvetti said. The job first opened in summer 2013, when Silvetti said he would step down for the coming year.
While Silvetti hailed the commission's choice in a press release Tuesday, the ramifications for Bedford County government are less clear.
Howsare's departure leaves Ling, the county's chief judge, to select a replacement. Ling is legally bound to choose a Republican - Howsare's party - who has lived in the county for at least a year, Howsare said.
While judges often seek advice from county officials or party leaders, the final choice is solely Ling's, Howsare explained. The commissioners, Howsare included, have been involved in a lengthy court battle with Ling over county funds and probation officers' supplemental pay.
"I don't want to leave the position open," Ling said. "As soon as I get something from [Howsare], that will start the process over here."
Howsare said he plans to remain in Bedford County for the Altoona-based job. In a speech at the Tuesday commissioners' meeting, he detailed the accomplishments he and his colleagues have made there since 2004: finishing a long-past-due reassessment, drawing industry to the I-99 corridor and completing a courthouse addition, among others.
"I would like to personally thank all the people who have supported me throughout my campaigns as well as my time in office," he said. "It has been a real pleasure to serve, as well as a real honor."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.