August 25 – When November 2024 rolls around, we will be seeing a lot of changes – and one of note for us, locally, is that Representative Paul Schemel will be out of office.
He is not going to run for a sixth term in the 90th Legislative District.
Schemel said, “I still have a term that goes through November of 2024, so I’ll be here for a long time. I decided really in the beginning of the last term, not to run a next time, a sixth time. I wanted to make this announcement early. It’s kind of early, but when I ran the very first time, I didn’t know until January and you have to circulate petitions at the end of January and that just wasn’t really adequate time. You have to rush around to talk it through. Is this something you want to do with your family? So I want to make sure that anyone who might be interested in running for the position really has the time to weigh that, talk to their family, and be prepared. I think that’s how we get good candidates, men and women who really think it through and don’t just act as a knee jerk reaction. I also didn’t want a situation where people said, well, you know, Paul has told these people and those are just his buddies or his pals and other people didn’t get to know. I’m not going to be endorsing anybody. So I think everyone should have an equal opportunity to run and that means an equal opportunity to know that that position is going to be open. I’ve been grateful for the time we’re there. I’m still grateful for the confidence of the voters, for the next year and a half that I’ll be in office and looking forward to seeing who comes out and decides to throw their hat in the ring.”
When Schemel ran for the office, he pledged to be there only for a certain time – he wasn’t a career politician.
He said, “I never gave a term limit because I didn’t know what that would be. In fact, somebody advised me not to when I first ran. They said you never know when you’re going to have a piece of legislation you’re working on one more term to get it over the edge. But this was never a career move for me to be a state legislator. I wanted to do it as a citizen. But then I also want to return to what I normally do and I think that’s a good thing. I think that it’s good that we have folks that aren’t dependent upon becoming elected and sit in that position forever, and never give other people an idea and never give other people an opportunity. I think you have to realize other people have ideas too and they should have that opportunity to serve the folks. That’ll be 10 years for me. That’s a long time. If you can’t get what you wanted to get done in 10 years, it’s time to let a new set of people come and have their hack at it, too.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “We’ve always appreciated, Paul, your thoughtful deliberations. I’m hoping we get someone who might try to model themselves after you a bit because you’ve gotten criticism for that sometimes. If something came down quickly and you didn’t have all the information, you weren’t going to vote for it without understanding what you were voting for. I, personally, have appreciated that and you very much. I’ve often said Paul Schemel is one of the most honest persons in the legislature in my opinion. You are, I think, like I said somebody that others could model themselves after. You don’t seek the limelight. You don’t seem to be licking that finger and sticking it up in the air to make a decision and I’ve always appreciated that.”
“Thanks,” Schemel said. “I don’t know that I deserve that, but Thomas Jefferson said that no generation has the right to bind the successive generations. I think that’s true with elected officials. Everyone will have their own path that they take, that’s what the voters choose. Whoever that will be, they will find their path and I just pray that they just be someone with a good heart. I always tell new legislators because new legislators talk to me and I say, at the end of the day, you need to look in the mirror and you need to be the same person you were at the beginning of the day and you need to be the person that you told voters when you first ran that you would be. If you do those two things, whatever they are, you’ll be true to yourself, you’ll be true to your voters. I’ve tried to do that and many legislators do. There are a lot of good men and women who serve in the State House and many who represent us in this community, in this county. I’m sure the voters of southern Franklin County will find a good fit.”
Jansen said, “I know you’ve garnered respect from both Republicans and Democrats. Let’s face it, there are some who are never willing to talk to the other side, but those who are willing, seem to be people who would tap into you. You’ve often commented on your discussions with folks who maybe won’t publicly even say that they’re debating something or asking for this advice, but they’ll come to you and talk to you at least privately. You’ve often shared those stories, some off the air, some on the air, and I think it just also states that when you have that kind of respect, it helps with that communication.”
Schemel said, “I had the benefit of having many years of business experience before I was a legislator in government. In the world of business, you never make enemies, because you never know, even when you’re on the opposite side of something, when maybe in the future, you may need that individual. Politics in Harrisburg, I think it’s important never to make that personal. You have differences of opinion. You vote in different ways. You’re staunch advocates for your own perspective or your community’s perspective, but it’s not personal. I count many Democrats among friends. We never vote together. But I count them among friends and when they need help on things, they come to me. When I need help on things from their side, I will go to them. The same goes for Republicans, I think it’s good just to have good friends within the legislature.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Paul, what’s been the highlight maybe of all this time so far? There may be another highlight waiting for you out there, but something that you’ve gone, you know what? This is a good victory for everybody.”
Schemel said, “There have definitely been a lot of pieces of legislation, but I’ll tell you I say this and it’s not just a joke, and I still have a year and a half. So I still hope to be very effective as a state legislator, but it was my first term and we had a budget that was just incredible overspending. All of our budgets are, but this one was and we’d gone late that year, as you may recall. I remember standing up in caucus when the caucus was kind of just sort of going by inertia into approving this terrible budget of overspending and I stood up in caucus and said, this is ridiculous. We can’t do this. Then other legislators started to stand up and say you know? He’s right. We can’t. This is the wrong thing to do. We need to hold out longer. We need to do this. So sometimes I tell folks it’s what you accomplished, sometimes it’s what you keep from happening, too, and that was a good moment. It buoyed other people up to kind of follow out and we stretched that out until December, which was an awfully long time, but we saved the taxpayers billions, literally billions of dollars. So not a bad day.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said of Schemel, “It’s just so odd and refreshing to see a politician carry through with their pledge and I think it’s smart that he did it way in advance as he said in his announcement. He wants to allow plenty of time for people that want to run to get ready for this. Historically, when that seat has been vacant, and it’s happened a few times over the last 20, 30 years, there is a lot of interest in that seat. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see four or five or more people declare their candidacy for that.”
Ryan pointed out, “When you think about the growth in Greencastle as well and how important that stretch of 81 is and Paul has been right there along with us. Very open, very honest. Here’s what’s happening. Mr. Schemel is one of the good guys. I keep going back to that. You think about how lucky we are in this area between Doug Mastriano and Rob Kauffman. You’ve got Jesse Topper. You’ve got some real good players in the marketplace for south central Pennsylvania.”
Jansen said, “Paul’s integrity and honesty were beyond reproach when it came to being a legislator and I knew I could always get the straight scoop from him and his honest opinion of whatever was going on. He was so honest that he knew if he didn’t know enough about a subject to vote for it, he would not vote for it. That’s a rare quality in a legislator and his brains actually were very important, I think, too. He’s leaving big shoes to fill in terms of those qualities.”
Schemel also has an amazing sense of humor.
Jansen laughed, “He’s quiet, you don’t expect it and then it just comes out of nowhere and it’s this really amazingly funny, right off the cuff, things that he would say. He would literally have people laughing very hard, giving a speech on something or giving a talk on something that otherwise might be a boring subject. Very unexpected.
Barkdoll added, “The other thing I’ve liked about Paul over the years, I’ve had a few occasions to call his local district office on a constituent matter, as a resident of his district, and he routinely, he’ll get on the phone and talk to me. He doesn’t have to do that. He can allow a staff person to address it. I’ve always appreciated that. He is a really smart guy. He’s been a real asset and resource to this district in Harrisburg. So this is a loss. I mean, this is a major loss, but I think as he’s recognizing, there’s going to be a lot of interest in this seat. I commend him. I commend Todd Rock. People that run and pledge a term limit, this is what the framer’s intentions originally were at the federal level. I wish we saw more of this kind of exercise at the state level, too.”