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Ward second woman to serve Westmoreland

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007

Westmoreland County's three commissioners took the oath of office Friday in a formal ceremony at the county's century-old courthouse.

Before a crowd of about 200 family members, friends and political supporters, commissioners Tom Balya, Tom Ceraso and Kim Ward officially began their four-year terms.

The three assumed their posts after a bitter, hard-fought general election campaign that pitted Democrats Balya and Ceraso against Ward and her Republican running mate, George Dunbar.

Balya, who is beginning his fourth term, was sworn in by his wife, Judge Debra Pezze. Ceraso, who is starting his third term, was given the oath by Judge Christopher Feliciani. Judge Richard McCormick administered the oath to Ward.

Ward is only the second female commissioner in the county's 235-year history. She succeeds Phil Light, who retired. Dorothy Shope was the first female commissioner when she was elected in the 1970s.

Ward expects the first several months of her term to be all about getting to know her colleagues.

"Hopefully, we can give ourselves a few months to see how we work together," Ward said. "My hope is we can focus on what we think is important. What I think is important may not be the same as the others, but if it's important to me, that's what I'll work on."

"I'm very excited to have the opportunity again to continue to move the county forward," Ceraso said. "If everyone keeps the taxpayers in mind, we can do what's best for the county."

Two county judges and five row officers also were sworn in during the ceremony in Pezze's ornate courtroom.

Judges Rita Hathaway and Jay Ober were sworn in by President Judge John Blahovec. Controller Carmen Pedicone, Treasurer Kathlyn O' Brien, Sheriff Chris Scherer, Register of Wills Earl Keim and Recorder of Deeds Tom Murphy, all Democrats, began new terms.

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