Hess was ‘at home’ in district

Almost up until his death on Friday from complications related to surgery, state Rep. Dick Hess of Bedford remained strongly committed to overcoming what went wrong earlier this year with the state General Assembly’s efforts to approve new transportation legislation.

Hess took his responsibilities as Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee seriously, and the longtime area lawmaker granted himself no recess from his determination to craft a strategy for transportation success for when the General Assembly would return to Harrisburg later this month.

Unfortunately, he would not live to see the fruits of those efforts.

The General Assembly would honor his more than 2 decades in the House by putting to rest later this month the unproductive haggling that stymied passage of a transportation bill amid preparation of a 2013-14 state budget.

And if the successful transportation measure is one that Hess would have supported if he still were in the House, his name should be attached to it to honor him for his hard work toward that goal.

It was only when his health began to deteriorate over the last couple of weeks that what he was doing on the transportation front would have to give way to an even greater fight – a fight he ultimately lost while a patient at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Upon hearing of Hess’ death, state House Speaker Sam Smith issued a statement saying Hess, whom Smith called a tireless public servant, would be “missed by many more than those of us in the state House. His loss will be felt throughout the 78th District, from constituents to the schools and many service organizations he belonged to.”

Gov. Tom Corbett accurately expanded on Smith’s statement, calling Hess a “champion of economic progress, moral values and individual rights – principles he represented unfailingly in his 26 years in the General Assembly.”

The governor added that Hess placed the economic well-being of Pennsylvania citizens foremost, reconfirming what so many of his constituents already knew.

Hess was much more than about transportation, despite so much of his time being tied up by transportation issues, first as a Transportation Committee member, later as ranking committee member and finally as GOP chairman.

At home in the 78th, he is being remembered as a representative who was committed to securing government grants and other benefits for his district, and Bedford County Commissioner Paul Crooks, a Democrat, referred to him as the “go-to person to get things taken care of.”

Crooks’ description emphasized Hess’ laudable carry-over from his pre-legislative public service years, when Hess served as Bedford County chief clerk, and prothonotary and clerk of courts.

Whoever is selected to replace Hess will have the disadvantage of being at the bottom of Harrisburg’s legislative seniority ladder, and that’s not something about which the 78th District is looking forward.

However, for the benefit of the district and state, it’s important that the new representative carries forth Hess’ commitment, values and determination, to make the best impact possible.

Dick Hess was a strong proponent of good government who maintained great pride in the goodness of the people he served.