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Waltz unopposed for Democratic nomination

JOE WALTZ

LOCK HAVEN — Joe Waltz announced his candidacy for the 76th District State House seat back in January. He will be seeking the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, June 2.

Waltz served 34 years as an educator, retiring from the Keystone Central School District in 2007, and has been active in various local organizations. During a recent wide-ranging Q&A with the candidate, Waltz talked about a myriad of topics.

THE EXPRESS: Tell us a little more about your background? Who you are, where you are from, practical experience?

WALTZ: Many people from the area know me as “Mr. Waltz” or “Coach Waltz,” the art teacher or basketball coach from when they were in high school or junior high. As an educator, a coach and a longtime community volunteer, my first commitment has always been to our community and the people who live here. In each of these roles, I’ve proven my ability to listen with open ears, mediate conflicts and solve problems. These are the kinds of practical skills that I think we could all use a little more of in Harrisburg.

As far as my background: I grew up on a small farm in neighboring Lycoming County. I graduated from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania with a degree in education, the first in my family to attend college. My teaching career began at the former Lock Haven High School, and I have called Clinton County my home ever since. I’ve been married for 37 years to the former Stephanie Kleckner, a retired small business owner and Clinton County native.

I retired after 34 years of teaching, but I have remained active in community affairs. I am a member of the Lock Haven Kiwanis, Clinton County Historical Society, and Clinton County Economic Partnership; a social member of Lock Haven Sons of Italy; and a former member of the PA Interscholastic Athletic Association. I was chairman of the Clinton County Democratic Committee from 2014-2018 and also served on the City of Lock Haven Planning Commission.

THE EXPRESS: Why should voters in the 76th District vote for you to represent them?

WALTZ: My background and experiences: growing up on a farm, being the first in the family to go to college, struggling to make ends meet or managing a small business, caring for elderly loved ones are but a few of the common threads in my story that I share with so many residents of the 76th District. I know this is not a single-issue district, and I intend to fight for all the people in it.

Focusing on the economy and good-paying jobs; quality, affordable education, and investments in our rural infrastructure, such as high-speed internet, will improve the quality of life for our residents and also create attractive communities that encourage young people to stay and others to relocate here. This expands our tax base and supports our communities.

I will fight to bring civility back to government and strengthen the bonds that hold our communities together. I sincerely believe that we have more in common than we do differences. It’s time for more practical policies and less partisan politics at all levels of government. I believe that the office of the State Representative is designed to be a resource for the district it serves. I will always listen to constituents with respect, regardless of party, and I will look for answers. I will always work with community leaders to ensure that our area gets its fair share and has a voice in Harrisburg.

THE EXPRESS: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your campaign?

WALTZ: My campaign has been taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. Like many organizations and businesses, we canceled events and modified our campaign efforts over the past several weeks. We have developed an ambitious outreach program to continue connecting with residents of the 76th District that includes phone calls, online town halls, emails, mailers, and the use of social media. I’d also like to take a moment to thank the emergency services and health care professionals, organizations and individuals who have stepped up in this time of need to keep our communities safe!

THE EXPRESS: Pennsylvania is facing record unemployment as a result of the pandemic. If elected, what will you do down the road to get Pennsylvania back on track?

WALTZ: This pandemic has been absolutely devastating on so many levels. The total impact will probably not be realized for months and possibly years to come — and it’s not clear how or when monies diverted from other worthy causes for the relief effort will be replenished. However, I am hopeful that many of the individuals who unexpectedly had to seek out unemployment due to COVID-19 will be able to get back to work very soon, if they’re not already.

It is clear that high-speed internet is a must in order for our rural region to compete. With dependable internet, workers can find new jobs or possibly even work from home and small businesses can reach new markets when existing ones are disrupted. I will work with other rural legislators, economic development groups, and community leaders to find creative solutions for expanding broadband internet and to attract good paying, family sustaining jobs to our district.

The outstanding beauty of our area offers advantages and opportunities to area businesses. The Department of Commerce has said that the outdoor recreation industry is one of the foremost drivers of rural economies. Meanwhile, other studies are suggesting that COVID-19 has begun to alter the way people travel and recreate — and they’ll be looking for nearby outdoor experiences. In the 76th District alone, we have over half a million acres of public land — mountains full of outdoor adventure possibilities. These natural assets attract visitors to our area, and those visitors spend money at our local businesses. Pennsylvania brings in nearly $30 billion annually from the outdoor tourism industry, and nearly $2 billion is spent in north central Pennsylvania alone. The industry also supports about 10 percent of jobs in our region. We can grab a larger share of this industry by positioning our communities as gateways to these outdoor recreation experiences.

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