As the Director of Veterans Affairs for Lehigh County, I am privileged to be a leader in my community and to serve my veteran brothers and sisters. As founder and chairman of the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veteran Task Force, I am even more privileged to lead an incredibly tireless and selfless team that this past June received federal certification that we have effectively ended veteran homelessness here in the Lehigh Valley.
Veterans, by their very existence, are the embodiment of service to our country and our community. In short, that means serving and helping others. Like my brothers and sisters, I believe that there is no higher calling than to serve others. From my military service to our country to now serving my veterans and the community at Lehigh County, it is in my DNA to serve.
I intend to make sure that all of our veterans get a fair shake. In fact, I’ve already drafted and submitted legislation to help our veterans that is slowly making its way through the legislative process. I will, of course, focus on that legislation immediately upon taking office. My priorities are ensuring that all veterans have access to mental health services and their families have the proper mental health training to help stem the tide of veteran suicides. Second, I will focus on implementing Veteran Treatment Courts in every county to make sure that our justice-involved veterans are afforded the opportunity to make amends and return to our communities healthy and whole. Finally, I will work to make the transition from military back to civilian life is a smooth process that helps our veterans reorient and reintegrate.
I want to focus on building and restoring our future. Too many of our young people are leaving the state for what they see as greener pastures. We must work to bring good paying jobs to the state and the Lehigh Valley to encourage our children to stay here or come back after college to be the next generation to keep this state vital, strong and relevant.
Higher education is the ladder upon which our children and adult learners climb to bigger and better things. Our state system of higher education is a crucial part of that ladder of success. We must support our colleges and the educators. We must ensure that they provide rigorous programs relevant to today’s world of work.
They must be innovative and dynamic and, most importantly, they be seen as cost-effective investment to the student and the parents. We must also ensure that our children see and understand that learning a trade such as plumber, electrician, and the like is honorable work necessary to building our future.
We must also ensure that our students not only can afford school, but graduate as debt-free as possible. I was privileged as a military member and later as a combat veteran to receive financial assistance that allowed me to earn an undergraduate and graduate degree without breaking my bank.
Our Older Citizens
Pennsylvania is aging. We must do everything that we can to ensure that our older citizen’s age with comfort and dignity. That starts with helping folks stay in their homes. That means that the supports and services need to be there. Medical services, social supports, meals-on- wheels, and more are critical links important to their well-being and remaining engaged in their communities. And we must work to control the skyrocketing property taxes that drive people from their homes and from this state.
Our Common Good
I believe in people. We are all shaped by our parents, our heritage, our race, our religious beliefs, and our sexual orientation. But in the end, we all want what we believe is best for our families, our neighborhoods, our state and our nation. I believe, as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, that what matters is the content of a person’s character.
Along those lines, we must also work to improve the lives of the lesser among us. It is our moral imperative to lift up those in-need to ensure that their lives shine and they can contribute to the fabric of our diverse and dynamic communities.
We must continue to work to protect our environment. This includes continued vigilance of our ground waters through smart regulations to control pollution especially through runoff and sewage disposal. As a backpacker, preservation of our natural areas, forests and waters is equally important.