Joe Venasco

 Joe Venasco has been named as the county's interim administrator, filling in for now-retired James Gagliano. 

Joe Venasco has another hat to wear in Lawrence County government.

The county commissioners in a 3-0 vote Tuesday appointed Venasco to serve as the county’s interim chief clerk and administrator until they are able to conduct a search for someone to fill the administrator’s position permanently.

He is temporarily filling the position left open with the retirement of James Gagliano at the end of 2019. His salary in the position has not yet been established, Commission Chairman Morgan Boyd said. Boyd said he expects to call a meeting of the county salary board sometime next week to address Venasco’s salary and other positions in the government system.

Gagliano, upon his retirement, was appointed by the county Salary Board to stay on as a part-time fiscal administrator at a pay of $60 per hour, with a maximum base pay of $60,000. His job is to help in an advisory capacity until the administrator position is permanently filled.

Boyd said Tuesday afternoon that Gagliano will continue in that position in addition to the appointment of Venasco as interim.

He said an executive session will be held Friday for the salary board to discuss Venasco’s pay and other personnel matters before setting a public meeting date.

Venansco has been the county’s director of Mental Health/Developmental Services for more than nine years, having succeeded former director John Klenotic when he retired in 2010.

Before that, Venasco worked as a program specialist for Mental Health/Developmental Services under Klenotic. The agency is located in the east side of the Gettings Annex, across from the courthouse.

Venasco has worked 13 years for the county agency.

The commissioners about a year ago also appointed Venasco to serve temporarily as the acting director of Lawrence County Children and Youth Services when trouble with the agency’s financing and other problems arose there. His work ended when the commissioners hired John Bout as executive director of CYS.

Venasco holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from Thiel College in Greenville, with a certification in education.

He worked at Community Alternatives for about 12 years as executive chief of mental health services before he was hired by the county.

Venasco, of Plain Grove Township, is married to Kristine Venasco, who works part-time in the county planning department and part-time in the commissioners’ office. They have two children.

Boyd, in nominating him for the interim administrator position, said he sees Venasco as “a solid choice.”

“He’s respected across the board (among) all staff and department heads,” Boyd said. “He has the temperament to guide this county and work with the three of us, our department heads and our staff as we conduct a more long-term search for a permanent replacement for Mr. Gagliano.”

Boyd added that he sees the need for the interim administrator in the meantime o help with budgeting and staffing issues and to work with the board of commissioners to help improve its effectiveness.

“I hold Mr. Venasco in very high regard,” Commissioner Dan Vogler said. “He’s very well-respected.”

Commissioner Loretta Spielvogel pointed out that Venasco stepped in during the changes at Children and Youth Services and helped to get the agency back on track with contracts and personnel issues. She agreed that the county needs someone in the position until it is filled permanently.

“I think it’s a good decision to make, absolutely,” she said.

Spielvogel said after the commission meeting that the board has decided to address what needs to be done first, and revising the budget is a top priority. After that, the commission will begin the search for filling the administrator’s position and finding a maintenance superintendent, she said.


Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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