Eichelberger discusses state’s issues as term ends

State senator offers tips to successor

A longstanding politician offered tips to help the commonwealth and his successor as the end of his term in office approaches.

State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, spoke at the Blair County Cham­ber of Com­merce Breakfast Club on Thurs­day, addressing questions about the state’s economy and labor force and his future plans as he prepares to exit the political landscape.

He advocated for the state to im­plement a zero-based budget rath­er than allotting a certain amount of money to various de­partments based on the current year.

To address the pension crisis, Eichelberger suggested using a defined contributions program rather than a defined benefits program, which he described as “archaic.”

Eichelberger also said he thinks Pennsylvania should be­come a Right to Work state and employees should be able to opt in for unions rather than having to opt out. Re­garding the labor shortage, he said children should be ex­posed to all types of programs and job opportunities at an early age, stressing that not everyone needs to necessarily pursue a college education.

Eichelberger has been in the Senate for 12 years.

“It’s interesting to work with people in the community — with developers, with organizations, with individuals — that come to me with ideas and projects and help them accomplish things that will benefit the community,” Eichelberger said. “That’s a very interesting part of my job that I’ll miss, being on the ground for those discussions and helping people every day with problems.”

He added that his staff has helped a lot of people and that he has been visible in the community, maintained state money that came back to the 30th Senatorial District and had many legislative accomplishments while in office.

Joe Hurd, chamber president and CEO, said “Sen­ator Eichelberger has al­ways been one who has done what he said he was going to do and has stood for the things that were important to him when he ran for office.”

Hurd added the commonwealth is losing a great advocate for businesses.

Jennifer Knisely, Altoona Area Public Library executive director, who attended the breakfast, said, “I’ve always appreciated Senator Eichelberger’s willingness to meet with us, talk about some of the issues that are facing public libraries and libraries across the state in general.”

“As chair of the education committee, we also appreciate his work on that committee on behalf of our libraries,” she added.

Eichelberger said he looks forward to getting back into the insurance business and spending more time with his family when he leaves office. He added another run for political office is a possibility.

For whoever replaces the senator, Eichelberger said his successor needs to be straightforward and honest with people and to listen to them.

Republican candidate Judy Ward and Democratic candidate Emily Best are running for Eichelberger’s seat.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.