NYT photo

We're shaking the rust off a bit after our hiatus, but in the meantime things progress around Grant Street, Harrisburg and DC:

Dan Onorato may not have announced if he'll be on the executive ballot for a third time come spring, but county controller Mark Flaherty is set to run regardless. (Jim O'Toole)

Can't start 2011 without something Marcellus-related. John Hines may be the new DEP secretary. (Detrow/Capitolwire/GrassrootsPa)

Kit Seelye at the NYT writes about LCB privatization (NYT photo above):

Like prisoners in the gulag, consumers here can only fantasize about buying their wine and liquor in a competitive free market. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has run the liquor stores for eight decades, a relic of the post-Prohibition era, when government thought controlling the sale of alcohol would limit consumption.

Here's a bio of Pat Toomey's pick for his point man on Western Pa:

Matt Blackburn – Western Pennsylvania Director. A native of Erie, PA, Mr. Blackburn has many years of experience working in the legislative, policy, and political arena.  Mr. Blackburn started his career as a Legislative Assistant for then-Congressman Toomey in 2003 and went on to join the Congressman’s 2004 Senate campaign as the Director of Grassroots for Western and Central Pennsylvania.  He continued to gain legislative and policy experience as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and as the Government Affairs Director for Express Search, Inc., a patent research company.  Most recently, Mr. Blackburn served as the Policy Director for Senator-Elect Toomey’s 2010 campaign, overseeing all research and policy issues.  Mr. Blackburn received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Gannon University in Erie, PA.
The full list of the new senators regional directors is after the jump:
Allentown – Senator-Elect Pat Toomey announced a number of key hires for his Pennsylvania Senate offices, including, State Director, Deputy State Director, Western PA Director, Eastern PA Director, Regional Manager for the Lehigh Valley, Regional Manager for Northwest Pennsylvania, and Regional Manager for Southeast Pennsylvania.
Bob DeSousa – State Director. Mr. DeSousa brings a long and impressive resume of serving Pennsylvania to the job of Senator-Elect Toomey’s State Director.  Currently serving as counsel for Dethlefs-Pykosh Law Group, Mr. DeSousa began his prestigious legal career as a Federal Law Clerk in Williamsport, PA, and then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Middle District in Scranton and later Lewisburg, PA.  He went on to serve as the Chief Counsel for Pennsylvania’s Department of State and the Inspector General of the Commonwealth under Governor Tom Ridge, a cabinet level position.  Mr. DeSousa also has many years of business and legal experience in the private sector.
Mr. DeSousa is an Officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, the National Treasurer of the Federal Bar Association, the State Judge Advocate for the Department of Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Treasurer of the Dauphin County General Authority, and the Past Chairman of the Board of the National Civil War Museum.  In addition, Mr. DeSousa currently serves as the Regional Trial Defense Counsel for nine northeastern states.  Mr. DeSousa received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA and his law degree from the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, PA.
Susan Zimskind – Deputy State Director. A resident of Pennsylvania for 25 years, Ms. Zimskind has many years of experience working for Senator-Elect Toomey and serving her community in the Lehigh Valley.  She previously served as the Deputy District Director for then-Congressman Toomey in Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth Congressional District.  Ms. Zimskind has also volunteered for the Jewish Day School of Allentown, the Allentown JCC Women’s Auxiliary, and Temple Beth El.  She graduated with Distinction from McGill University in Montreal.
Matt Blackburn – Western Pennsylvania Director. A native of Erie, PA, Mr. Blackburn has many years of experience working in the legislative, policy, and political arena.  Mr. Blackburn started his career as a Legislative Assistant for then-Congressman Toomey in 2003 and went on to join the Congressman’s 2004 Senate campaign as the Director of Grassroots for Western and Central Pennsylvania.  He continued to gain legislative and policy experience as a Legislative Assistant for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and as the Government Affairs Director for Express Search, Inc., a patent research company.  Most recently, Mr. Blackburn served as the Policy Director for Senator-Elect Toomey’s 2010 campaign, overseeing all research and policy issues.  Mr. Blackburn received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Gannon University in Erie, PA.
Josh Novotney – Eastern Pennsylvania Director. Mr. Novotney joins Senator-Elect Toomey’s staff as the Director for Eastern Pennsylvania, after serving as the Finance Director for Senator-Elect Toomey’s 2010 campaign.  He brings many years of experience in the political arena, including service as the GOTV Coordinator for the Republican National Committee, the Fundraising Program Director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Finance Director for Jim Gilmore for Senate, and the Deputy Financial Director for Senator Arlen Specter’s campaign committee.  Mr. Novotney received his bachelors in political science from Notre Dame University.
Marta Gabriel – Regional Manager for the Lehigh Valley. Ms. Gabriel’s service to Pennsylvania is well-known throughout the Lehigh Valley.  She brings years of experience in the private sector, including her current position as Executive Vice President-Operations & Easton Initiatives of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  She has also worked for some of the Lehigh Valley’s largest businesses, including Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown and Crayola in Easton.  Her experience includes community relations, philanthropy, foundation and development, and media outreach.  Ms. Gabriel has also served in a number of volunteer positions, including sitting on the Board of Directors of Renew Lehigh Valley and the Secretary of the Easton Heritage Day Board.  Ms. Gabriel received her bachelor’s degree in business communications from Moravian College and her masters in political science from Lehigh University.
Sheila Sterrett – Regional Manager for Northwest Pennsylvania. Ms. Sterrett has spent many years working in public service in Pennsylvania’s northwest region.  For over a decade, Ms. Sterrett has served as the Director of Government Affairs for the Manufacturer & Business Association in Erie, PA, where she represented more than 4,500 member companies located throughout northwest Pennsylvania.  Ms. Sterrett has also taught political science and public administration courses at Mercyhurst College and Penn State Behrend.  Ms. Sterrett received her masters in public administration from Gannon University in Erie and her bachelor’s degree from Clarion University.
James Fitzpatrick - Regional Manager for Southeast Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Fitzpatrick has spent many years in the political arena. Most recently, he served as the Southeast Regional Field Manager for Senator Toomey’s 2010 campaign, overseeing all field work for Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties.  Mr. Fitzpatrick has also served as a Regional Political Coordinator for the Republican National Committee, overseeing 14 states, and as the Philadelphia Field Director for the McCain-Palin campaign.  Mr. Fitzpatrick graduated with a degree in history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
“I am very proud of the team we are assembling both in Pennsylvania and D.C.,” Senator-Elect Toomey said.  “All of these new hires bring experience, a terrific work ethic, and a passion for the work they do.  There is much challenging work before us, but with such a committed and hardworking group of people around me, I know we can make real and constructive progress for Pennsylvania and our country.”
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