Lehigh County Commissioner Amy Zanelli announced earlier this month that she will run for District 31-1-06 Magistrate in the Pennsylvania Primary Election on May 18.
If elected, Zanelli would replace late district magistrate Wayne Maura, representing Fountain Hill and West Bethlehem.
Zanelli, a Democrat, was elected to the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners in 2017 to represent District 3, which includes Fountain Hill and West Bethlehem, as well as South and East Allentown, and Hanover Township, Lehigh County. She was elected Chair of the Board of Commissioners in 2020.
A Fountain Hill resident, she is the first openly gay person to serve on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners.
Zanelli said she believes that running for magistrate is the next step in the evolution of her public service, and that her commitment to a fair and just judicial system will make her successful in the role.
“The frontline for the judicial system, and very often the only part most people ever encounter, is their local magistrate,” Zanelli said. “There’s a lot of discretion that’s involved, because magistrates deal with bail arrangements, they deal with civil suits under $12,000, they deal with misdemeanors.”
“So I think it’s very important that we have a magistrate who is really knowledgeable about the separation of power, how the justice system implements the laws that are set forth by the community, county and state. And it’s very important that we have someone that can apply that law fairly and equally,” she continued. “That’s why I want to run.”
Zanelli’s commitment to fairness and equality was evident through her focus on the passage of pay equity and non-discriminatory policies as county commissioner, she said.
“Whether it’s recognizing the plights of vulnerable children or seniors, understanding the often complex rules, regulations and procedures of governments and organizations, or making transparent the available options to solve a problem, Amy Zanelli is fair and just in both her actions and decision making,” her campaign said in a press release.
In continuing her focus on the needs of the community, Zanelli announced that she will work with a bilingual staff to ensure that language does not serve as a barrier to a fair trial. She added that a full-time court will be available for people of all working schedules, and that case backlogs will be addressed and resolved if she becomes elected.
Zanelli also believes she is equipped to handle the role of magistrate after all she accomplished in 2020, even with countless challenges presenting themselves.
“Of all counties in Pennsylvania, we (Lehigh) were only one of four that was able to weather the storm without raising taxes or laying anyone off,” she said.
In fact, Zanelli said Lehigh County made great strides towards increasing funding for sustainability efforts in 2020.
“Under her leadership, Lehigh County doubled its dollars in investments preserving farmland, ensuring cleaner air, cleaner water and an improved quality of life for our future generations,” Zanelli’s campaign announcement said.
Her work expanding social programs for repeat offenders, recovering addicts and the homeless are among her proudest accomplishments as a county commissioner, she said.
“We were able to gavel down 2020 with having funded three recovery centers,” Zanelli noted.
She promised to deliver the centers while campaigning in 2017, however her predecessor as Lehigh County Commissioner, David Jones, said she would be lucky to even have a real conversation about the centers as a budget line item during her first term.
“So to gavel down the end of my third year with them funded makes me really proud, because it was the hardest, I think, of all the promises I made on the campaign trail in 2017,” Zanelli said.
Zanelli is supported by a committee of local attorneys including Jim Fiorentino, David Harrington, George Kounoupis, Nancy Hahalis and Zac Cohen.
She has been endorsed by Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez; Pennsylvania State representatives Michael Schlossberg, Peter Schweyer and Jeanne McNeill; Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong; and other members of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioner, members of Bethlehem City Council and members of Fountain Hill Borough Council.
~Jonny Hart, Saucon Source