Richard Shellenberger
Former Lancaster County Commissioner Richard Shellenberger.
Former Lancaster County Commissioner Richard Shellenberger has died, friends and colleagues confirmed Tuesday.

Shellenberger, 72, was elected as a Republican commissioner in 2003 and served one term from 2004-2007.

“Dick was a true gentleman; a man of strong Christian faith who was devoted to family and to the Lancaster County community,” former State Rep. Gordon Denlinger said.

Denlinger said he volunteered on Shellenberger’s commissioner campaign and the two also had many professional interactions during the years their elected service overlapped.

“Throughout his public service career Dick held fast to conservative principles, but a love for people  was also important in the decisions he faced along the way,” Denlinger said.

Prior to taking office, Shellenberger owned and operated the former Eatery at Granite Run in Manheim Township. He sold the restaurant in 2004. Before that, he was in charge of the retail division of Kreider Farms.

The cause and place of death are still unclear.  Shellenberger is survived by his wife, Pam, a son, Richie Shellenberger and a daughter, Missy Jeanes. Family members were not immediately available.

Beau Eckert, Shellenberger’s pastor at Calvary Church in Lancaster, said  funeral arrangements would be made in the coming days.

As his successes, supporters pointed to $5 million in funding Shellenberger brought to farmland preservation and his stance against the downtown convention center and hotel, according to reports.

However, his time in office was also marked by controversy. He and his fellow commissioners, Pete Shaub and Molly Henderson, pleaded guilty in 2006 to violating the state’s open-meetings law in discussing the sale of the Conestoga View nursing home the year before.up

Questions were also raised over Shellenberger’s role in the hiring of Gary Heinke as the county’s chief services officer. It was alleged Shellenberger had manipulated the hiring of Heinke, who eventually resigned over questions about his résumé, according to newspaper reports.

“My family will be praying for the Shellenberger family,” Shaub, also a Republican, said Tuesday. “He is in a better place now.”

Henderson, a Democrat, said Shellenberger tried to research whatever issue was at hand and was open to hearing from staff.

“I always found Dick Shellenberger to be a forthright and honest man who wanted to do public service, and I always enjoyed working with him,” she said.