We are pleased to have the opportunity to ask Pennsylvania State Rep. Michael Schlossberg a few questions about his career and opinions about the issues concerning our area.
TVL: Why did you enter politics?
My experience, and my faith, has taught me that the point of being alive is to make the world a better place, particularly for those who cannot live better lives without help from others. I believe that politics is the means to influencing government, and that government is the best way to make a positive impact on society as a whole. From there, the choice was easy.
TVL: Is it tough balancing family life and a political career?
Extremely – it’s the hardest and worst part of this job. I have young kids – 5 and 3 – and a wife who I love dearly. I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with them. In this job, you are always on, no matter where you are and what you are doing, and there are no such thing as normal “work” hours. As a result, you miss a lot of important moments. The first time both of my kids said “I love you,” it was over FaceTime, while I was in Harrisburg. I completely missed my daughter’s first birthday because I was in Harrisburg, voting on the transportation bill of three years ago.
That being said, I’m not complaining. None of this is a surprise to me, and I knew exactly what I was signing up for when I got involved in government and politics. There is also a trade-off – yes, I miss a lot of time at home – but I get to make my home a better place. For me, being an elected official is an important part of being a father.
TVL: What is your proudest accomplishment since taking office?
I’m proud that I have a long track record of success I can point. I’ve brought home education funding and transportation investments, and passed real legislation that has protected abused spouses, rape victims and children in vehicles. That being said, what I am most proud of is going public with my own story of suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. I’ve written extensively on the topic and spoke about my own struggles on the floor of the House of Representatives. Of the things that I have done in office, I think that was the one which positively affected the most people, because I think it made others realize that it was okay to suffer from mental health disorders, and that people with these types of illnesses can easily lead happy and productive lives.
TVL: Do you have a mentor/mentors that you look to for advice?
Besides family, two in particular. First is Jennifer Mann, my predecessor, friend and mentor. I always joke with people that my “dirty political secret” is that I’m from New Jersey; fifteen years ago, I came to Allentown by way of Muhlenberg College. During that time, I interned in Representative Mann’s office. She opened my eyes to this incredible community and gave me a first-hand look into all of the good that government can do; it was working with her that really made me want to pursue this career. Second is Tony Iannelli, my old boss at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. I worked for Tony for over five years, and his experience, desire to make positive change, innovative spirit and commitment to the Lehigh Valley are second to none. He made me see that with energy and a hardcore work ethic, anything is possible. Working for him and the Chamber also opened my eyes to the importance of small businesses and an innovative spirit.
TVL: What do you feel makes you the most qualified person to represent the people of the 132nd district?
Three points. First is experience and community interactions. I’ve been a State Representative for almost four years, a member of Allentown City Council for two and a half, and a Vice President for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. I’m the only person running for the 132nd Districts who owns a home, pays property taxes and has held a job outside of politics. I’ve lived here for the past fifteen years, built deep roots in the community and am raising my family here. Second is values – I genuinely believe that I am fighting for the priorities of the 132nd District, including on things like education, investing in the middle class and protecting the vulnerable, as well as important social issues like protecting a woman’s right to control her own body. Third is my record. As I said earlier, I’m proud of my record of bringing education and transportation funding home, passing legislation which protects vulnerable Pennsylvanians and using my own battles against mental illness to help break the stigma which surrounds these disorders and get more people into treatment.
TVL: What issue or issues do you see as a priority during your current and next term in office?
Investing state funding in our community schools and using that funding to hold the line of property taxes. Allentown School District is still reeling from the 2010 cuts, which resulted in the elimination of over 400 educators and cut dozens of programs. Parkland is rapidly growing and also needs state assistance in order to keep its facilities and programs up to date. Additionally, property taxes remain a real issue, and I argue that our property taxes are so high because the state has not invested enough in education. The only way we will hold the line on property taxes is by bringing more resources home.
TVL: Since being elected you have found yourself on several important committees. How has that experience aided you in your political career?
Transportation, Education, Health, Energy & Environmental Resources and Human Services is my entire committee roster and it is a full slate! I’m genuinely proud to be on so many important committees, and they have given me a foothold in areas that are meaningful to my constituents. This has enabled me to build relationships with important committee chairs and other House members. As a result, I can pass legislation and be involved in important legislative discussions, which gives me the chance to bring home more resources to the 132nd.
TVL: In closing what message would you like to send to the constituents of the 132nd district?
A sincere message of gratitude. Serving as State Representative for the past four years has been a humbling and incredibly rewarding experience, and I am thankful beyond words to have been the voice of the people of the 132nd. I am hopeful for the opportunity to service another two years.
TVL: Michael thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for us so we can share your thoughts with not only the constituents of the 132nd district but with the rest of the Lehigh Valley as well.
Here are some useful links to learn more about Pennsylvania State Rep. Michael Schlossberg:
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