For the first time in a decade, a commissioner from the Somerset-Cambria region will be at the helm of the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission.

Somerset County Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes has been elected to a two-year term as president of the six-county regional development agency.

Cambria County Commissioner P.J. Stevens was elected treasurer and Bedford County Commissioner Steve Howsare will be secretary.

The organization encompasses Somerset, Cambria, Bedford, Huntingdon, Blair and Fulton counties.

“I have always been impressed by the work the commission is doing. I think there are so many challenges in the district, and I look forward to the next two years,” Tokar-Ickes said.

Southern Alleghenies is one of seven local development districts across the state that work with small- to medium-sized businesses and provide direct services to aid in economic and community service development.

One of the more high-profile recent endeavors is promoting the region as a tourism destination under a single brand name: “The Alleghenies, This Place Speaks To You.”

With an operating budget of $2 million, Southern Alleghenies and its 39 employees serve as a conduit for an estimated $12 million in federal and state money flowing into the region for everything from job training to money for roads and sewers at industrial parks.

“We provide many direct services in economic and community development, and we broker federal money,” Executive Director Edward Silvetti said.

The organization provides staff to the four more-rural counties – including Somerset and Bedford – for transportation planning, and it is a liaison to the state Department of Transportation.

While job training may be what Southern Alleghenies is most associated with, it also aids in small-business development and offers a low-interest loan program and tourism, government procurement and export services.

“We’re very busy on a lot of fronts,” Tokar-Ickes said.

The last time a Somerset County commissioner headed the agency was in 1990-91, when Brad Cober was president.

The last Cambria official at the helm was then-Commissioner Kathy Holtzman in 1995.

Kathy Mellott can be reached at539-5328 or

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