PGCB Commissioner Kernodle Resigns, Manzano-Díaz Named As Replacement

Written By Kevin Shelly on October 13, 2021 - Last Updated on May 25, 2023
PGCB Commissioner Kernodle

Obra “Obie” Kernodle IV, a veteran of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, announced his resignation from the regulatory board after four years of service at the outset of the Oct. 13th meeting of PGCB.

A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Kernodle, 43, moves to another public agency, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), as the deputy chief executive officer on Nov. 1.

The DRPA oversees four bridges and a public transit system connecting Pennsylvania to New Jersey across the river. The governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey each share board appointments.

First in-person PGCB meeting since March 2020

Due to COVID-19, the October meeting was the first in-person meeting of the board in Harrisburg since March 2020. Board members and staff wore masks unless speaking.

A recent father whose baby had sometimes was audible on recent live-streamed PGCB meetings, Kernodle said his new position, with an office on the Camden side of the river facing Philadelphia, will be better for his family life.

It will also boost the bank account of the politically connected Kernodle by more than $58,000 annually. As a gaming board member, he made $145,000 annually. His new annual salary at the DRPA is $203,237.

There was no discussion of a possible replacement for the vacancy his resignation created. The appointing power for the vacant post is PA Gov. Tom Wolf.

The administration did not respond request to a request for comment. The board meets next on Nov. 10, so there is time to add a replacement by the time of the meeting.

A replacement for the vacancy

On Nov. 2, Gov. Wolf appointed Sara Manzano-Díaz to fill the vacancy created by Kernodle’s departure, just a week ahead of the next PGCB meeting.

Manzano-Díaz has a 25-year history of public service positions including at the US Department of Labor, Pennsylvania Department of State, New Jersey Department of Treasury, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

She is a member of the Wolf’s Commission for Women. Manzano-Díaz serves on the committees of several arts organizations in Philadelphia.

In a press release, Gov. Wolf said:

“Sara is a dedicated and accomplished public servant who has extensive leadership experience in federal and state government. I’m confident that she will be an asset to the Gaming Control Board.”

Manzano-Díaz holds a communications degree and is a lawyer via Rutgers University. Bilingual, she grew up in public housing in New York’s Harlem. Her parents hail from Puerto Rico. She is married to retired judge Nelson A. Díaz.

Earlier this year, Chairman David M. Barasch announced his retirement and Wolf swiftly replaced him with Denise J. Smyler, who wished Kernodle well and thanked him for his service.

Kernodle’s career in public service

Kernodle has served as executive deputy chief of staff for Gov.Wolf. He had previously served as both deputy campaign manager, political director, then a senior advisor for Wolf’s transition team.

Also, he served former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter as deputy of legislative affairs.

Several fellow commissioners thanked and praised Kernodle.

He responded:

“For a boy from Philadelphia on this commission, now having a son, he can come back and know his father was a commissioner for the gaming board is something I really hold highly.”

DRPA CEO John T. Hanson said in an agency statement:

“Obra’s energetic, problem-solving mindset will be a great fit with our leadership and he will serve a key role within the authority. I am looking forward to working with him as we continue our commitment to stewardship of our transportation assets for the benefit of the community we serve.”

In the same prepared statement, Wolf said:

“Obra has made significant contributions throughout my administration and has consistently demonstrated his passion for serving the citizens of Pennsylvania, I know he will bring the same high level of enthusiasm and commitment to the DRPA.”

Kernodle’s Philadelphia background

Kernodle was born and raised in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Roman Catholic High School. He got a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, a historically black university in Tallahassee.

Kernodle serves on the boards of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Visit Philly, and Welcome America, according to the DRPA.

In other PA Gaming Control business

Parx Casino paid a $10,000 fine for allowing an 18-year-old to sneak past distracted security guards and wager on six slot machines and also meeting up briefly with his grandfather.

His illegal behavior only came to light when he ignited and tossed firecrackers as he left the casino’s parking lot.

Parx self-reported the incident to the PGCB. The boy skirted security focused on COVID-19 protocols with other patrons. Parx banned the boy and disciplined the security guards. The underage patron pleaded guilty two disorderly offenses.

There were also three incidences of adults leaving children behind in vehicles briefly while they gambled at various locations.

The parents are now on the involuntary exclusion list.

To date, 129 individuals have made the list to leave children alone in vehicles while they gambled. PlayPennsylvania recently reported about the ongoing problem of kids being left in cars at casinos.

Lead image: Obra Kernodle (center) Exec. Dir. Kevin O’Toole (left) Board Chair Denise Smyler (right) from PGCB Twitter.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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