New Castle News

March 2, 2013

John K. Manna: Few elected officials show desire for higher office

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Over the years, most local politicians have stayed local.

I’m not referring to the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill who often said that all politics is local.

No, I’m referring to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who have held office in Lawrence County over the years have not aspired to higher office.

While some taxpayers may believe a lot of officeholders are looking for greener pastures, it just doesn’t happen that often.

In fact, few over the years have even graduated to higher office within the county.

There was a time when political bosses groomed men — not women — for office and told them when to run and which office to run for.

But that doesn’t happen anymore with the decreased influence and power of the two major parties, not only here but throughout the United States.

The only current officeholder who ran for a higher office and won is county Commissioner Dan Vogler, who had been a Neshannock Township supervisor.

One other person to accomplish a similar feat and serve as county commissioner in recent history was Richard DeBlasio, who had been a New Castle city councilman.

Many of the local representatives in the state Legislature and Congress didn’t hold any office before being elected to their current positions either.

There are two area legislators who are the exceptions: State Sen. Elder Vogel and state Rep. Michele Brooks. Vogel served as a New Sewickley Township supervisor and Brooks served as a member of Jamestown borough council and then as a Mercer County commissioner.

While Lawrence County residents may not be interested in moving up in the political world, neither are most other citizens in Pennsylvania. The fact is that few people who seek a higher office, including state legislative, congressional and gubernatorial posts, have held a municipal or countywide elective position.

Of Pennsylvania’s last six governors, only one held a local elective office: Ed Rendell, who was mayor of Philadelphia.

What to make of this? I’m not sure, except to wonder why more people holding local office don’t aspire to a higher one. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add a different perspective on the state and federal levels.