New Westmoreland County solicitor choice lacks municipal experience
Westmoreland County commissioners on Monday hired an attorney with no experience in municipal law to serve as the county's new solicitor.
Melissa Guiddy, 43, of Hempfield will replace R. Mark Gesalman, who retired at the end of 2014 after serving 25 years as head of the county's legal department.
Guiddy, a partner with Greensburg law firm of King and Guiddy, will earn an annual salary of about $56,000. She will be considered a part-time employee and dedicate about 80 percent of her time to her new job, commissioners said.
Commissioners Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney first attempted to name Guiddy's law firm as the county solicitor. That plan was rejected after they learned that state law requires counties to hire an individual, not a law firm, Anderson said.
Guiddy's law partner, attorney Rob King, was the commissioners' second choice, but his daunting workload meant he is unavailable for about six months, Anderson said.
The commissioners interviewed five candidates last month, then turned to Guiddy after King declined to accept the position. She was interviewed last week, Anderson said.
How long she'll stay in the position isn't clear.
“This is not an interim position,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney. “But our long-term plan is to have Rob (King) sitting in that seat.”
Anderson said Guiddy's job performance will be evaluated in about six months.
“For right now, she is the solicitor,” Anderson said.
However, Guiddy said Monday that her job will be on an interim basis.
“It's for six months,” she said.
According to her resume, Guiddy has worked as a lawyer since graduating from Widener University School of Law in 1996. She has been at the firm since 1997.
She has focused on civil litigation, workers compensation cases, estates, property, corporate and administrative law. She said she has not been involved in municipal issues and has not served as a solicitor for any other governmental bodies.
“It's going to be a good experience,” Guiddy said of her new position, in which she will oversee the county's legal office and its nine attorneys. “I have a lot of experience in terms of reviewing and drafting contracts.”
Commissioner Ted Kopas said Anderson and Courtney's proposal to name a law firm as solicitor was “a poorly thought-out plan,” but he didn't oppose Guiddy's hiring.
“While her municipal experience is not great, I know she is eager to work hard,” Kopas said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.