Stern legacy positive

State Rep. Jerry Stern’s early decision not to seek re-election next year will provide plenty of time for a strong field of possible successors to step forward for the voters’ consideration.

Although the legislative seat has been Republican-held for most of the past half-century, 80th District voters would be well-served by enthusiastic campaigns and spirited debate from both parties.

Those aspiring to succeed Stern should enter the campaign prepared for much more than smiling, shaking hands or relying on name recognition.

Meanwhile, those seeking Stern’s legislative seat shouldn’t make promises that they won’t – at least initially – have the power to keep.

Whoever succeeds the longtime 80th District representative will begin his or her House service at the bottom of the seniority ladder, just like the reality Stern once faced.

The best starting objective for Stern’s successor should simply be learning the job, its possibilities and its limitations. Beyond that, the new lawmaker must look out for his or her district’s best interests as well as determine how best to vote regarding the commonwealth’s needs.

Stern began in that way and otherwise followed the correct path during his long, successful House career. Whoever follows him should heed the lessons of his notable public service.

Stern has been an exemplary example of achieving good results without becoming sidetracked by the legislative spotlight. His achievements were accomplished by working hard outside of the glare of that spotlight.

Although Stern lost his 2010 bid to become Speaker of the House, the fact that he was a candidate for that role demonstrated how far he had advanced as a legislator and how much respect he built among his colleagues.

Nevertheless, Stern has been growing increasingly unhappy about what he described as the changing atmosphere in Harrisburg’s political arena, where he said lawmakers “are more concerned about doing their own thing, not working with colleagues.”

There’s also plenty of evidence of that in Washington.

However, some of the problems in Harrisburg and Washington result from lawmakers’ unwillingness to challenge leadership tactics that limit or prevent compromise. Stern, while committed to working cooperatively with other lawmakers, had the courage to introduce viewpoints that were not widely embraced.

Fortunately, the 80th District will have the benefit of his service for another year – a year that he hopes will see creation of an independent Pennsylvania Tourism Commission whose mission would be to develop a consistent theme and tourism program for this state.

Stern views the state’s current tourism initiative anemic when stacked up against many other states’ programs. Since the House already has passed the legislation to create the commission, Stern will be working toward obtaining Senate concurrence.

Beyond being unhappy about Harrisburg’s changing atmosphere, Stern’s secondary reason for not seeking a 12th term is the liver transplant he needs because of a congenital illness. Many people will be hoping for his speedy recovery and hoping that his government service, first in Blair County and then on the statewide level, will continue to inspire others to work on the public’s behalf.

A.C. Stickel, Blair County Republican chairman, aptly described Stern as “one of the good guys.”

Stern’s successor should strive to be one, too.