Cambria and Somerset county leaders on Thursday praised the selection of Steven Howsare to take the helm of Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission.
Howsare, 46, will step down from his post as a Bedford County commissioner Feb. 2 and begin his new role Feb. 3.
“I think he’s going to do an outstanding job,” Cambria President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said. “It’s a little bit different in terms of what he’s done, but he’s worked with Ed Silvetti for quite a while.”
Silvetti, of Duncansville, who has led the Southern Alleghenies commission for the past two decades, will retire at the end of this month.
Howsare has been a leader of the six-county economic development agency for eight of the 10 years that he has served as a commissioner. That gave him the edge when it came to finding a successor to Silvetti, Somerset Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said.
Lengenfelder and Ickes are on the Southern Alleghenies personnel committee and were involved in the selection process.
“It was a very thorough process, and I think we had a lot of strong candidates for the position,” Tokar-Ickes said. “I’m very excited as a county commissioner to be working with Steve.”
For five decades, Southern Alleghenies has served as the conduit for federal and state funding to improve the economy of Cambria, Somerset, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Fulton counties.
About three dozen employees work out of an office complex outside Altoona.
Howsare was picked from more than 30 applicants. Many were from out of the area, Lengenfelder said.
“He was head and shoulders above the rest,” Lengenfelder said. “Steve is going to make a great CEO.”
As a member of the Southern Alleghenies executive board, Howsare said he served as vice president or president for the past five years, giving him an inside look at the operation.
“For me, It’s the kind of thing I like. I think it’s a good fit,” Howsare said.
The big drawback will be leaving his fellow Bedford County commissioners, Kirt Morris and Paul Crooks.
“We work well together – that’s the negative (to leaving),” Howsare said.
Bedford County President Judge Thomas Ling will name a replacement to serve the 23 months remaining in Howsare’s term.
A decline in state and federal funding forced a staff reduction at Southern Alleghenies a few years ago, but it now is entrenched in meeting the goals established years ago, Silvetti said.
“Actually, the commission is in very good shape,” he said.
Howsare plans to continue living in Bedford County and will commute to Altoona.
About Steven Howsare
What: Executive director of Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission beginning Feb. 3.
Current job: Bedford County commissioner for past 10 years.
Family: wife, Amy, and seven children.
Home: Pleasantville area.
Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.