Tuesday, April 16th, 2024
News Review Magazine

Charting the Political Landscape At All Levels of Government

by Laura Knowles

G. Terry Madonna ’64

“There is tremendous fascination with politics, and politics has shaped our nation since its inception,” says G. Terry Madonna ’64.

After earning his Ph.D., Madonna returned to Millersville, where he was a member of the faculty for 37 years as well as chair of the government department and head of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs.

In 2004 Madonna joined Franklin and Marshall College, where he is director of its Center for Politics and Public Affairs and professor of public affairs. He also hosts a program on WGAL-TV called “Pennsylvania Newsmakers” and is recognized as a national expert on politics and the American presidency.

With the 2016 presidential campaign ramping up full force, Madonna has been called on by media as wide-ranging as the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, National Public Radio, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News to offer his analysis of the upcoming campaign.

“One thing I have observed is how polarized our country has become,” says Madonna, noting that issues such as gun control, the environment, immigration, abortion and foreign policy have created a political climate with no middle ground.

As Madonna notes, our political system tends to lean sharply to the right or to the left, with little room for moderation. And yet, Madonna has discovered that this powerful divide masks a reality that most Americans are not fully aware of.

“In truth, most Americans are moderate. The conservative views of the Republican Party and the liberal views of the Democrats do not represent the more moderate views of most Americans,” says Madonna.

Madonna says that “I think we are seeing the death of the middle class,” pointing out that what most people care about are issues like the economy, healthcare and social issues that affect them more directly. Even gun control gets a moderate take from most people, who neither see themselves as NRA [National Rifle Association] supporters nor gun haters. Yet the political lines would make it seem that Americans are sharply divided. Most people are disturbed by the school shootings and do not want guns to get into the hands of persons with mental illness.

With the 2016 presidential campaign gearing up, Madonna is intrigued by the number of Republican candidates. At one point, there were 17 candidates, participating in debates that seemed more like a sideshow than debates on clear issues. Madonna predicts that the numbers will gradually dwindle to a handful of viable candidates for the Republican party, while Democrats will be choosing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

“One thing you can say is that we have a very interesting mix of candidates on both sides, and underlying it all is extreme anger among Americans,” says Madonna. “Just wait ’til the gloves come off.”

While national politics have a show-biz quality, local politics tend to be much more pragmatic. In truth, it is local politics that has a greater effect on the personal lives of people, such as the taxes they pay, where they live and how their children are educated.

Mindy Fee ’87Mindy Fee ’87

State Representative for the 37th Legislative District, Mindy Fee ’87 offers simple advice for future legislators.

“Get a good education, find a career that you love that isn’t involved directly with politics and then run for office,” says Fee.

Fee, who is serving her second term, points out that the 203 members of the Pennsylvania House come from many backgrounds, such as teachers, farmers, CPAs, business owners, lawyers and police officers. Everyone brings a different set of skills, and all of these perspectives are valuable in working together for the good of Pennsylvania.

She credits her parents with getting her interested in politics. Her parents served on the borough council in Manheim, and her mother was the first woman ever elected to that post. Later her husband Tommy served as mayor of Manheim, and then as the area’s magisterial district justice.

“After he passed away in 2011, I decided it was time for me to join the ranks of those who were willing to serve in that capacity,” says Fee, who has a degree in economics.

Fee believes that everyone who pays taxes is affected by government. If you have kids in school, government affects you. If you drive on roads and fill your car’s tank with gas, government affects you. She urges people in all walks of life to devote some time and energy to learning about the issues and all of the ways that government affects daily life.

“Knowing about politics isn’t just about hearing about the people running for president. It means knowing what your school board is working on. It means knowing about what your municipal officials are doing about an intersection near your house. It can be tempting to just ignore politicians in general, but the truth is that you need to make your voice heard,” she says.

“The issues that are consistently at the top of my agenda are property tax reform, pension reform, prevailing wage reform and farming issues,” says Fee, adding that her district includes a big chunk of Pennsylvania’s most prime farmland.

Jordan Harris ’06Jordan Harris ’06

Jordan Harris ’06 was in high school when he decided that politics was his chosen path in life.

It all started with a campaign to keep a Philadelphia school open. That’s when Harris saw that standing up for an issue could empower people.

“We do have a voice, and we can make a difference,” says Harris, who was so anxious to vote in his first election that he registered the day he turned 18.

“I was hugely influenced by professors like Rita Smith-Wade El and Richard Glenn,” says Harris. He credits a financial aid package from Millersville with making college a reality.

A government and political affairs major, his goal was to return to his hometown of Philadelphia to improve his community. In 2012 his dream came true when he was elected as the state representative for the 186th District in Philadelphia. 

Bob Walker
Bob Walker answers questions with several Millersville students.

Before pursuing a career in public service, Harris worked as an educator in the Philadelphia Public School System for several years. He was also the executive director of Philadelphia’s Youth Commission. Harris was instrumental in designing Slam Dunk, a summer program that assisted over 600 high school students in meeting credit requirements for graduation.

“What I care about most is education and the educational system. Through education, anything is possible,” says Democrat Harris. He is pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership.

Harris will return to Millersville as the keynote speaker at the December 2015 commencement ceremony.

Tom Baker ’02Tom Baker ’02

Tom Baker ’02 first got interested in politics when he served as Millersville University Student Senate president from 1999-2001.

“I was exposed to so many terrific learning opportunities about how local government works,” says Baker.

Baker went on to become the youngest candidate for Allegheny County Council’s District 1 in Pittsburgh, unseating an incumbent in May 2013 and winning the November 2013 general election. Before that he served on the North Hills School Board and as chairman of the Young Republicans of Pennsylvania.

“Government impacts our lives on a daily basis,” says Baker. “One of my favorite things about being a councilman is helping constituents every day with their issues and concerns. I always do my best to respond quickly and try to work as hard as possible to help them with the issues they have. I really like to hear from my constituents—I represent 100,000 residents.”

Baker finds fulfillment in seeing the impact that elected officials make in the everyday lives of neighbors and communities.

“Keeping taxes low is something that I find vitally important,” says Baker.

“Millersville played an incredibly large role in my development as a leader,” says Baker. “Millersville has never let me down, and I am proud to be a Marauder for life!”

Scott Martin ’02Scott Martin ’02

Scott Martin ’02 took a path to politics that had lots of twists and turns. He majored in sociology and criminology, with a minor in athletic coaching. Professionally, Martin had worked as business development officer, director of the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center and supervisor of Barnes Hall Juvenile Detention Center.

Martin feels strongly that a life of service has great meaning to him and those he serves. He believes he found his calling when he was elected to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners in 2008, and since then has served as vice chairman.

Martin actively serves on several statewide and county committees, demonstrating his dedication to issues that include criminal justice, ending homelessness, juvenile crime and ending sexual exploitation of youth.

He was inducted into Millersville’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. A two-time All-American football player and a PIAA state heavyweight wrestling champion, Martin admits that his can-do attitude from athletics has given him a competitive edge when it comes to politics. He sees himself as a champion for the causes that mean the most to him.

Patricia Brogen ’75Patricia Brogen ’75

Patricia “Pat” Brogan ’75 has served as chief of staff to Lancaster’s Mayor Rick Gray since he took office in 2006.

Although Brogan, who previously worked for Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Sturla, never went into politics on purpose, you might call it a fortuitous accident.

All set to enter the social work field, Brogan was lured into politics when Louise Williams was running for District Judge in the late 1970s. She asked the young college grad to be a campaign volunteer and help get signatures for her nominating petition.

“Long story short, if you volunteer for a political campaign once, you’re sucked in forevermore,” she jokes. A registered Democrat, Brogan always votes for the person, not the party.

As a child, Brogan lived with her Italian grandparents, and on Sundays the family gathered for a spaghetti dinner after church, which inevitably led to political debates with strong opinions.

“Watching and listening to all that energy and passion about politics sure had an impact on me,” says Brogan, adding that her grandmother was a huge influence in her life. “She was a very tolerant and patient person, but she had no patience or tolerance for people who didn’t vote. She considered it a mortal sin.”

Brogan believes that local politics is “where the rubber hits the road.” With local government there is no distance between those who serve and the people who are being served.

She considers poverty as “the root of so many of our problems, and I’m very concerned about what’s been termed the plight of the middle class.” Brogan says, “I believe that, as a country, we’re ignoring poverty and the concentration of wealth at our own peril.”

Interestingly, Brogan felt most impacted by nonfaculty staff at Millersville, who took her under their wing.

“My first Thanksgiving after graduation, I was unemployed and living in Millersville. They put together a huge turkey dinner basket and brought it over to my house,” says Brogan, adding that Bob Slabinski ’78 also had a major impact when he hired her to work at Student Services. “To this day, I can say that my life has been enriched by each and every one of these kind, generous and wise people.”

Jess Yescalis monitoring elections in Tunisia.
Jess Yescalis monitoring elections in Tunisia.

Jess Yescalis ’06

Jess Yescalis ’06 started volunteering in campaigns at the age of 13. He served as a political aide to Tom Ridge in his first campaign as governor of Pennsylvania. That’s when he realized that he loved campaigning more than working in government.

After a year in the Ridge administration, Yescalis followed his passion and became political director for the Arizona Republican Party. The Republican National Committee then asked him to run the Hawaii Republican Party, where he served for two years as the youngest state party executive director in the country.

After that it was a whirlwind of national and world travels, as Yescalis took on a “fly-around” job with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, helping U.S. Senate candidates in six competitive races. Today, he has his own company, Yescalis Campaign Strategies based in Phoenix, which specializes in fundraising and campaign strategy.

“I have worked with hundreds of candidates, party committees and public policy organizations across the country, raising over $100 million for center-right candidates and committees,” he says and has visited 124 countries, 50 states and seven continents.

He trained candidates and political party leaders for seven weeks in post-revolution Egypt; helped the leaders of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, on strategic messaging in Burma; led a leadership academy for rising political stars in Mongolia; worked with new members of Parliament in post-coup Fiji and monitored presidential runoff elections in post-revolution Tunisia. 

“We are blessed to live in the greatest, freest society the world has ever known, which we take for granted,” he says. “There are still too many countries where activists literally risk their lives to engage in politics. They are arrested, persecuted, tortured and even killed fighting for the fundamental rights that we take for granted. The least we can do is volunteer for someone we believe in, write a check to a good cause and, at a minimum, take the time to show up and vote.”

Voting is both a privilege and duty. Here is an abbreviated history of voting in the U.S.A. 

1790 – Only white, male adult property owners had the right to vote.

1866 – The first Civil Rights Act granted citizenship to all native-born Americans—but not the right to vote.

1868 – 14th Amendment granted citizenship to people once enslaved, who had been born in the United States.

1870 – 15th Amendment prohibited the denial of the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude—granting black men the right to vote.

1920 – 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.

1964 – 24th Amendment outlawed poll taxes.

1964 – The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, gender or religion in voting, public areas, the workplace and schools.

1965 – The Voting Rights Act prohibited denial of the right to vote on the basis of race.

1971 – 26th Amendment set the national voting age at 18 and over.

1975 – The Voting Rights Act was extended and new provisions were added, such as outlawing literacy tests.

Millersville alumni who served as legislators

Marriott H. Brosius, Class of 1866
U.S. Congressman (1889-1901), Republican. Practiced law in Lancaster and served with the 97th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War. (1843 – 1901)

William W. Griest, Class of 1876
U.S. Congressman (1909-1929), Republican. He was also a teacher, newspaper editor, secretary of state of Pennsylvania (1899-1903) and president of lighting and street railway companies (1903-1927). Lancaster’s only skyscraper, the Griest building, is named in his honor. (1858 – 1929)

Joseph F. Biddle, Class of 1894
U.S. Congressman (1932-1933), Republican. Filled the vacancy caused by the death of Congressman Beers. Biddle was a lawyer and newspaper publisher. (1871 – 1936)

Jere W. Schuler, Class of 1956
Pennsylvania State Representative (1982-2002), Republican, 43rd District. Previously, he was a teacher and baseball coach at Lampeter-Strasburg High School for 25 years. (born 1934)

Ralph W. Hess, Class of 1962
Pennsylvania State Senator (1971-1990) Republican, 28th District. Chair of the Education Committee, he spearheaded legislation which established the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the PHEAA loan program. (born 1939)

Robert S. Walker, Class of 1964
U.S. Congressman (1977–1997), Republican, 16th District. High School teacher; assistant to U.S. Congressman Eshleman for 10 years; chairman of the House Committee on Science. Now CEO of the lobbying firm of Wexler-Walker. Established the Walker Center for Civic Responsibility and Leadership at Millersville University. Millersville is the repository of the former Congressman’s office papers and archives. (born 1942)

H. Craig Lewis, Class of 1966
Pennsylvania State Senator (1974-94), Democrat, 6th District (Bucks County and a portion of Philadelphia). He was a lawyer and served as a vice president of Norfolk Southern Corp. (1944 –2013)

Scott W. Boyd, Class of 1980
Pennsylvania State Representative (2003-2012), Republican, 43rd District. CEO and owner of a commercial display company. Previously, he served on the West Lampeter Planning Commission and Pequea Township Citizens Advisory Group. (born 1958)

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