Dear Governor-Elect Shapiro:
As you prepare to take the oath of office and become the 48th governor of the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you do so well aware of the significant challenges that await. You and your staff will contend with difficult and complex policy decisions that will impact 13 million Pennsylvanians across 67 distinct counties. You will grapple with a General Assembly that will at times challenge your authority and frustrate you, and with journalists who will question your logic. Trust us, we have those receipts.
But as two old guys who have had the privilege of being in the shoes you’re about to fill — a Democrat from the east and a Republican from the west — we promise: You are about to embark on the best political job in America!
Like you, each of us began our careers in public service tending to constituents close to home. But the lure of serving all of Pennsylvania, with its shimmering cities, bucolic farmland, acres of forests, unique townships, boroughs and hamlets, called to us, just as it has called to you. Never lose that feeling.
There is a reason ours is known as the Keystone State. Yes, Pennsylvania played a critical role in bonding together the states of our newly formed Union in 1776. But it’s much more than that. Today, the commonwealth finds itself at the center of commerce, technology, health care, agriculture and the arts. Our state parks, waterways and public spaces such as Presque Isle in Erie are treasures. It is a place of tremendous promise and potential — a keystone of our nation in every sense as America approaches its 250th birthday.
Of course, what truly makes Pennsylvania special are its people. We were, after all, politicians, and so much of the allure of campaigning and then governing was the opportunity to meet and talk to so many Pennsylvanians and to learn their stories. We would see them at places like the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, at the Pennsylvania Chamber’s big dinner in Hershey, at small ballparks in cities like Altoona and York, or at union halls in Philly and Pittsburgh and in between.
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us that we are surrounded by inspiring and selfless Pennsylvanians and revealed remarkable stories of those who stand up and make a difference in our communities during times of uncertainty and fear. People like Chad and Carly Butters of New Tripoli, who voluntarily shut down their distillery so they could make free hand sanitizer when it couldn’t be found on store shelves. Or the 40 factory workers in Marcus Hook who volunteered to live inside their plant for a month, making the raw materials needed for masks and hospital gowns. We have been inspired by people like these. Surely you will be as well.
All across Pennsylvania are selfless citizens who serve as our first responders — our firefighters, EMTs and police officers. Teachers who prepare the next generation and poll workers who ensure free and fair elections. White collar and blue. Ph.D.s and GEDs. These are our neighbors. These are the Pennsylvanians — from those just born to those in our nursing homes — your policy decisions will affect. It’s why leaving the Capitol often to travel this great state is essential. Stay connected and remain humble.
Always stay true to yourself and trust your instincts, which have gotten you to this day. Invite input from those you trust, listen to those with an opposing point of view, but ultimately make the decision you think is right. Our experience has been that if you make those difficult decisions — even if they may be unpopular, but are necessary to achieve a good result for Pennsylvania — voters will respect you for your thoughtfulness and consistency. You will sleep better, too!
America is known for its red and blue states. We like that Pennsylvania is a deep purple. That diversity of opinion comes from a commonwealth that is difficult to define. The suburban counties outside Philadelphia could not be more different than those that ring State College or our remote northern tier bordering New York. We are a state of Wawa and Sheetz. Of Yins and Yous. We are pleased to see that you are already embracing those differences by the choices you are making to serve in your Cabinet. We encourage you to continue to surround yourself with people who may not always agree with you. That’s healthy. That’s Pennsylvania.
We wish you, our future First Lady, Lori, and your children good fortune as you begin this journey together. When your time ends, we know you’ll agree it’s the best job you will ever have. And you’ll wonder why the king ever gave this beautiful, bountiful slice of land to William Penn.
Erie’s Tom Ridge was a twice-elected Republican governor of Pennsylvania, from 1995-2001. Philadelphia’s Ed Rendell was a twice-elected Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, from 2003-2011.