More than 130 local elected officials, from school board members and borough council members to township supervisors, state representatives, state senators and congressmen, gathered at the Allenberry Playhouse Monday night for the annual Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce Elected Officials Mixer.
The featured speakers were U.S. Reps. Todd Platts, R-19, and Lou Barletta, R-11.
Platts, a 12-year veteran of Congress, announced earlier this month that he will not be seeking re-election. At the time, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, a sentiment he echoed Monday night.
“It was a very difficult decision. My boys are in seventh and ninth grades, and when I dropped him off at the first day of ninth grade this year, I realized how fast middle school had gone for him, and the other one is already half-way through middle school,” Platts said.
Platts has been a fixture at the Chamber mixer during his time in office, said Michelle Crowley, president of the chamber.
In discussing his decision not to run again, Platts said, “I believe in 12-year term limits, I always have, and I always tell my sons you have to practice what you say.”
In his last year, Platts said he plans to focus on “getting our fiscal house in order.” He also reminded the crowd that “for 11 of my 12 years in office, we have been a nation at war. I was sworn in in 2001, before 9/11. Even now, there are men and women in harm’s way and I am forever grateful to them.”
Veering away from the emotionally charged topic of his upcoming departure, Platts said that he had received a lot of attention last week.
“A lot of people came up to me and said, ‘I saw you.’ I didn’t know so many Carlisle-area business people attended York Suburban High School basketball games, but that’s where I was, working the refreshment stand Friday night,” he quipped.
During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday night, Platts, whose seat is on the aisle, got extended face time with the president, who stopped and shook his hand.
When Platts told the president this would be his last State of the Union address, Obama told him, ‘You’ve always been a class act, Todd,’” Platts said.
“I don’t always agree with him, but I always show respect for the office,” he added.
In closing, Platts told the group, “You’ve given me a remarkable privilege and an important assignment. That’s why Friday night was serving hot dogs. Elected officials aren’t special, they’re citizens who’ve been given a charge.”
Platts then turned the microphone over to Barletta. Barletta is from Hazleton but under reapportionment, his district will include parts of Cumberland County.
Barletta praised Platts for setting such a strong example of leadership.
Although many people were displeased with the reapportionment maps approved by the General Assembly, Barletta said he “hasn’t stopped smiling since the new maps came out.”
Already familiar with some issues and institutions particular to Cumberland County, Barletta represents Monroe County, which is home to the Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Recently, he toured the U.S. Army War College and the Army Heritage Education Center, both of which he praised highly and vowed to protect and fight for.
Barletta was mayor of Hazleton when that city faced an illegal immigration crisis that led him and City Council to draft legislation to toughen penalties for renting to illegal immigrants. He said he had been told he would have to “switch parties” if he hoped to win the mayorship.
“I ran as a Republican, and I won. I’m not afraid to stand up and do what’s right for the people I represent,” he added.
Like Platts, he highlighted the need for a balanced budget and better economic policy in Washington.
“I love each and every one of you. I’ll be a fighter for you,” he vowed.
Monday night’s turnout was about 30 percent higher than last year, Crowley said.
“People have really started to realize what this is,” she said of the event. It’s not just a chance for business people to meet with elected officials, it’s a chance for elected officials to meet with other elected officials. School board members don’t always get to meet borough council members or township supervisors.”