Lebanon County Commissioner dies after battling COVID-19

During the Lebanon County Commissioners’ meeting on December 16, board member William Ames participated by teleconference in a discussion of the 2022 county budget. During that meeting, he confirmed that he had COVID-19.

“I am in a weakened position at the moment but I am still strong, and I still believe that we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the people of the county of Lebanon,” he said.

Defending Commissioners’ plans to pass an 18% property tax increase – the local Republican Party had issued a fierce statement opposing the increase – Ames said it was unfortunate that committee members from the GOP don’t want to sit down with commissioners about their concerns. Before the meeting.

Bill ames

“He was fiery and said he was considering running for another term now because of it, because he wanted to back down on it a bit,” President Robert Phillips said. “That was how his mind was a little while ago.”

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Republican County Commissioner William Ames, 81, died of complications from COVID-19 on Tuesday morning after being hospitalized at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, according to county commissioners.

Lebanon County Republican Committee chairman Edward Lynch said Ames was known for his outspokenness and staunchly conservative views.

“Commissioner Ames was a loyal husband, father, grandfather and civil servant,” he said in a statement. “Bill was deeply dedicated to making Lebanon County a better place for everyone who lived here; for that, we all owe him our deepest gratitude and respect. ”

Democratic Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz said Ames has never shied away from taking a stand on an issue and admires the way Ames takes care of her family.

“He loved his wife (Josie) and often called her his wife, bragged about her and defended her in the heavens,” she said. “Every husband should take a lesson from this. He was very good at letting his wife know that she was loved, and I have always admired that.”

Ames first ran for his county commissioner seat in 2011 and was serving his third term. Ames had also been a teacher in a Derry Township School District store and a director and owner of several businesses, including Ames Janitorial Services.

“I think his resume really made him an ideal candidate for county commissioner,” Phillips said. “He was a long-time teacher, he was a union representative for the union, he was a business creator in the building trades. He just had a great sense of balance between his work and his volunteering.

Ames was one of the main criticisms of an agreement between Lebanon County and Governor Tom Wolf over federal COVID-19 aid for an advertising campaign promoting the wearing of masks.

“My feeling from the start … at the start was that we were minding our own business here in Lebanon County,” he said at a meeting of commissioners in December 2020.

Ames and Philips have been pushing for the county to reopen after strict pandemic restrictions were not lifted by the state. In doing so, they defied Wolf’s orders. In response, the governor ultimately awarded federal money to Lebanon County, demanding that the $ 2.8 million be spent on a cover-up campaign.

Lebanon County Commissioner Bill Ames speaks as the Commissioners deliver their state of the county address at the Lebanon Community Association Luncheon on Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

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Ames faced his own battles with County Republicans.

Its latest campaign – in 2019 – divided the party, with one of its opponents having been backed by the Republican County Committee of Lebanon against Ames.

The committee formally endorsed candidate Matt Shirk, and Shirk’s unorthodox backing along with a flurry of negative publicity has caused deep divisions among party leaders.

Shirk accused Ames of “nepotism” for helping to nominate or elect members of his family to office in the county.

Lebanon County Commissioner Bill Ames and Gordon Tomb of North Londonderry Township gathered to support the police, both dressed in Trump clothing.  Tomb said, "Police have received a lot of unfair criticism in recent years, dating back to the Obama administration."

Ames responded to the allegations, saying he only had one parent who is a paid employee of Lebanon County – the Executive Director of the Lebanon County Planning Department, Julie Cheyney, his daughter-in-law – and ” it is here in its own right ”.

Three of the county’s political leaders signed a letter demanding the immediate resignation of the LCRC chairman as a result of these efforts.

The letter, in 2019, said President Casey Long’s actions “have undermined the Republican brand and threaten the electoral success of every Republican candidate and public official in the county.” The signatories included State Senator Mike Folmer and State Representatives Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan.

Ryan asked for prayers for Ames and his family on Tuesday, claiming that “a very close friend of mine and the community has passed away.”

State Senator Christopher Gebhard called Ames a “friend and mentor”, adding that he mourned the loss of a dedicated public servant.

“Above all, I know Bill was truly dedicated to helping his friends, neighbors and community. He will be truly missed. Please keep Commissioner Ames and his family in your thoughts and prayers during these difficult times. “

Never having met Ames until they ran in the 2011 election, Phillips said they became quick friends and partners over time in public office. Describing him as an Eagle Scout who “never forgot his promise,” Phillips said Ames was always very principled and worked hard.

“It’s just an incredible loss, (and) kind of a surreal situation,” he said.

The chairman of the Court of Common Pleas, Judge John Tylwalk, will appoint someone from the same party to take the Ames seat, with Commissioners saying the process will begin in the coming weeks.

Funeral arrangements are handled by Rothermel-Finkenbinder Funeral Home in Palmyra. More information can be found on the company’s website.

“He has always been a fearless advocate for Lebanon County, and I think that will be his legacy,” said Phillips.

USA TODAY Network reporter Kim Strong contributed to this report. Contact her at [email protected]

Matthew Toth is a reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DAMattToth.

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