Farewell Breakfast Held for State Representative Sam Smith

smith-1On Friday morning, a special Legislature Farewell Breakfast was held in honor of PA State Representative Sam Smith.

The breakfast was hosted by the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce.

In February, State House Speaker Samuel Smith (R-Armstrong, Indiana, and Jefferson counties) made the unexpected announcement that he will retire at the conclusion of his current term in the General Assembly.

Smith, a Punxsutawney native, has represented western Pennsylvania’s 66th legislative district in the State House for 27 years. His family is a political institution in Jefferson County, with his father, Eugene “Snuffy” Smith, having held the seat for the 18 years immediately prior to his son’s incumbency.

“While friends and supporters have been overwhelming in encouraging me to continue to run, the truth is, my heart is not in it, and my effort would be sub-par, and that would not be fair or good for any of us,” Smith stated.

“Upon some deep reflection, I no longer feel I can give the residents of the 66th the 100 percent commitment the job requires.”

Smith first ran for office to make sure the district’s rural voice was heard in Harrisburg.

“Rural Pennsylvania sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, especially on issues that cut along geographic lines versus traditional Republican or Democratic political lines,” he said.

His Republican peers elected him Majority Whip in 2000 and Majority Leader in 2003. Smith defeated ally-turned-rival John Perzel to become the 137th Speaker in January of 2011.

Smith listed among his accomplishments fighting the Rendell administration’s “near total focus on Philadelphia,” leading the House in efforts to protect Second Amendment rights, fighting the negative impact of the building code (which he opposed), changing laws to enhance mine remediation and the clean up of streams, protecting the unborn, stopping child abusers, fighting for his districts’ schools’ fair share of education funding, and balancing state budgets.

Smith remained focused on the local needs for economic growth and helped fund numerous water and sewer projects and industrial parks in all regions of the district, including:

• Improved airport access in Jefferson County;
• Rebirth of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus in Punxsutawney; and
• Expanded water and sewer lines in small towns like Rossiter, Plumville, and Glen Campbell.

Toward the end of his career, Smith also took up the mantle for reducing the size of the state legislature.

Smith was facing the prospect of a tough primary election battle with conservative Cris Dush, an Air Force veteran who held him under 50 percent in 2012, coming within 500 votes of a stunning upset.

“I want to personally thank the citizens of the 66th District for entrusting me with the honor and responsibility of representing them in the oldest elected body in America, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I am proud of my record of leadership and accomplishment on their behalf,” he said.

Smith’s retirement triggers a scramble in House Republican leadership. Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) will likely succeed Smith, but a spirited intra-caucus contest for the post of Majority Leader is likely to ensue, with the lead combatants rumored to be right-leaning Stan Saylor (R-York) and liberal-leaning Bill Adolph (R-Delaware).

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