Exarchos excited about a return to public service




STATE COLLEGE — If the name Chris Exarchos sounds familiar, it should.

Exarchos was a Centre County commissioner from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2015. Now, he’s hoping for a return trip back to the board of commissioners. Exarchos is a Republican on the primary ballot. He’s hopeful that Centre County voters will punch his ticket for the fall as he stages his return to politics.

“I enjoy public service, I really do,” Exarchos said on a recent morning. “I don’t necessarily enjoy politics, but I enjoy the public service. I’ve run several successful businesses in the area. This county, this area has been good to me. This is my way of me giving something back.”

Exarchos has an impressive resume, for sure. In addition to his time as county commissioner, Exarchos served on College Township Council (eight years) and the Centre Region Council of Government (eight years). He founded and operated The Victorian Manor Restaurant in Lemont as well as a business, Geo Energy. The 50-year resident of Centre County owns and operates a 300-acre farm in Marion Township.

According to Exarchos, he wants to make the county a better place for future residents.

“I have kids here, I have grandkids here. I want to make sure that they – and everyone else’s kids and grandkids – have the same opportunities that I did. You don’t want your kids going all over the country, you want to keep them close,” Exarchos said.

Since Exarchos has experience as a commissioner, he knows what the job entails.

“County commissioners don’t legislate; they don’t do any of that kind of stuff. Esentially, the county commissioner is a manager. He manages resources and provides social services for the citizens of the county,” he said.

Exarchos describes himself as a “fiscal conservative.”

“Two terms in the county and I never raised taxes. A lot of people can say that, but while I was there, we did a new jail, we did a fire training site, we expanded the courthouse twice and built a state-of-the-art 911 system. That’s a lot of capital projects. We did it all without raising taxes,” he said.

The method to getting things done? Simple, Exarchos said.

“I look for efficiencies, I look for waste. I look for ways to better run the government. I’m a businessman. I look at bottom lines. I look at the finances,” Exarchos said.

At 74, Exarchos shows no signs of slowing down – and that’s by design.

“I enjoy a challenge and I enjoy being an active part of the community,” he said. “I’m blessed. My health is good, my mind still works. County commissioner is not a physical job. It’s a mental job.”

When Exarchos announced that he was getting back into the fray, he heard from a lot of Centre County residents, he said.

“I’ve had a very positive response. People remember me from my previous terms. People have been very gracious. It’s been invigorating,” Exarchos said.

While Exarchos stopped short of criticizing the current board of commissioners, he said he did not understand the need for a $5 vehicle registration fee. For families and businesses with more than one vehicle, it amounts to much more than $5, he said.

“People might say, ‘well, it’s only $5.’ But it really isn’t. Most people don’t own just one car. (For them) it might be $20 or $30. And if you’re a farmer that has a lot of trailers and vehicles, that could hit you. All these little things drive up the cost of living in Centre County. If you drive up the cost of living in Centre County, it’s going to drive people to go elsewhere. That’s a concern of mine,” he said.

Another issue he would tackle is modernizing the county’s buildings. Many are out of date, he said.

“For example, we have a historic courthouse and it’s not sprinkled. We know what happened in Paris recently. I think we need to sprinkle the courthouse and modernize it. We’ve seen all the other (fires) that have happened in Bellefonte. I’m concerned about that … getting modern systems in these old buildings,” Exarchos said.

Exarchos is also concerned about the opioid crisis taking place in Centre County and beyond.

“I want to make sure we have enough funding for treatment and also encourage our law enforcement to take the dealers off the streets,” he said.

Energy is another issue that Exarchos would like to tackle. The county, he said, doesn’t make use of the natural resources it has available.

“We have all this natural gas in Pennsylvania and a lot of our citizens can’t use it. You have natural gas wells up in Snow Shoe, for example, yet people are heating their homes with oil. It’s costlier and not a clean fuel. We can argue about oil versus gas, but gas is a cleaner-burning fuel and it’s better for the environment, if given a choice. I live in Lemont, there’s no natural gas there,” Exarchos said.

That may seem like a lot of topics to tackle, but Exarchos prides himself on getting things done.

“I’m not all talk. If you look at my track record, I say I’m going to do and I did it. You have to be straight with people and mean what you say and say what you mean. A lot of people will throw ideas out there, get into office and forget all about it. People promise a lot and deliver very little,” he said. “I take pride in delivering what I say and getting things done.”

Exarchos knows that getting through the primary to the general election will not be easy.

“There are five people and I have a lot of respect for anybody that steps up for public office. It’s a daunting job,” Exarchos said. “But we’re not all the same. The county is an $80 million a year entity with over 500 employees that need to be managed. You can’t just take someone off the street and say, ‘here, run it. It takes experience and know-how. The voters are stockholders in the county. They need to think about who can manage it in their best interest.”

Exarchos is married with two sons and two grandsons. For more information about him, visit votechris.net or check out his Facebook page.