The ballots — at least most of them — have been counted. And the three men who appear to have won seats on the Berks County Board of Commissioners in the Nov. 5 election say the result will be a cooperative board.
Incumbents Christian Y. Leinbach, a Republican, and Kevin S. Barnhardt, a Democrat, both won reelection, and will be joined on the board by Republican newcomer Michael Rivera.
According to complete but unofficial results, Leinbach handily received the most support with 38,252 votes. But the race behind him was much closer, with Rivera receiving 34,342, Barnhardt finishing with 33,451 and Democrat Donna Reed getting 32,341. And since there are still about 1,750 absentee ballots to be counted, Reed is not prepared to concede the contest. But a Leinbach-Rivera-Barnhardt lineup seems likely.
The day after the election, each spoke about his expectations for the next four years, expressing eagerness to work with their colleagues for the betterment of Berks County.
Rivera said he'll be working hard to get up to speed on all the issues facing the county in the roughly two months he has before being sworn in. But he's grateful for the incumbents who will be able to show him the ropes.
"There are two good people who will be able to help me," he said.
Rivera said he's confident that he will work well with Leinbach and Barnhardt.
"The important thing is that we're able to discuss things in a civilized manner," he said. "We are not going to agree on everything but I think we'll be able to find the best way to move forward for the county. And I think we have the opportunity to set a good example about how to govern together."
Rivera said disagreements are bound to occur when you have three members with different backgrounds, different perspectives and different passions. The keys to solving those disagreements will be open communication and mutual respect.
"It's like that with all relationships," he said.
Rivera said he hopes to use his financial background to find ways to grow the local economy and encourage business development. He would also like to partner with nonprofit organizations to help bring financial literacy skills to high school students. Those will be his biggest personal priorities.
Barnhardt said although he wishes the election would have turned out a little differently, he will have no problem serving as the minority member for another term.
"I can work with anybody," he said. "The bottom line is that the election is over and now we have to get to work improving the lives of the people in the community."
Barnhardt said that he and Leinbach have established a proven track record over the past 12 years of bridging the partisan divide that can sometimes keep politicians from getting things done. Adding Rivera to that mix, he said, will most likely be a smooth transition.
"There are a lot of similarities in what we all campaigned on," he said. "I don't see any major divergent issues other than the Berks County Residential Center and I'm going to continue to press the state on coming up with an alternative use for the facility."
Barnhardt said they may have different philosophies and methods but they all want to get to the same place.
Leinbach agrees. He predicted that the election is going to usher in a period of harmony on the board. But, he stressed, that harmony will come from hard work.
"Harmony isn't an accident — you have to work at it," he said. "In the end, if we understand what we're doing and why we're doing it there is no reason for things to become personal and acrimonious."
He acknowledged that wasn't always the case in the past but he's hopeful for the future. And he feels like Rivera, who shares that same vision, is going to be a good fit for the board.
"Michael will be able to establish himself with his personality and his way of doing things," he said. "Knowing what I know about him, I think he's going to be a very positive addition to the team."