Franklin County shocked by Shuster retirement

January 04, 2001

Franklin County shocked by Shuster retirement

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

Rep. Bud Shuster retiresCHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County officials were reeling from the shock that powerful U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., who has funneled millions of dollars into the region for road and infrastructure projects over the last two decades, announced Thursday he is retiring.


"The reaction is shock," said Allen Twigg, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. "A lot of projects wouldn't have happened here if not for him. He was one of the most powerful people in Washington."

The 14-term Republican congressman represents Pennsylvania's 9th district, which covers all or part of 11 counties, including Franklin and Fulton. He has been chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for six years and was able to include dozens of local projects in bills totaling millions of dollars.

"I'm not sure there is a calculator that could add up all those zeroes on the money he brought in to Franklin County," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. "I've heard the 9th District got more transportation money than some states."


Shuster, 68, announced Thursday morning he is leaving office Jan. 31 due to health concerns for himself and his wife, Patty.

Shuster has remained popular, often running unopposed in the heavily Republican district, despite recent questions about his ethics.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge will announce the date for a special election to fill the seat, said Steve Aaron, a spokesman for the governor.

State election law gives Ridge 10 days from the time Shuster leaves office to announce when the special election will be held and requires a 60-day waiting period before the election.

"As the governor goes about making his decision he has two competing factors to weigh," Aaron said. "He has to weigh if he wants to restore the representative to the district as soon as possible versus the cost of a special election in the state."

Ridge could decide to postpone filling the seat until the next scheduled statewide election date, May 15.

Shuster's announcement sparked a flurry of speculation on potential replacements.

Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro, Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Shippensburg, and Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, all said they would consider their options, but none had made any commitment to seek Shuster's seat.

"Everyone has to keep his options open. It's a bit early ... I will have to give it every consideration. It is an opportunity that doesn't come along that often," Coy said.

Punt said he had received several calls from people offering their support should he choose to run for the seat, but added, "I've heard all kinds of rumors in the last four hours. It is way too early to speculate."

Twigg said he had not heard of any Franklin County Republicans who planned to seek the seat, but he said he has heard Fulton County Treasurer Bonnie Mellott Keefer was interested, and he had spoken with Shuster's son, Bill, about his interest in following in his father's footsteps.

Bill Shuster runs a car dealership in the Altoona, Pa., area.

"Right now the rest of the names I hear are just through the rumor mill," he said.

Republican delegates will have to meet in the coming months to select a candidate for a special election.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of wheeling and dealing between the delegates from the different counties," said Fleagle.

Elected in 1972, Shuster will leave a long legacy of projects.

"He has been a fixture in Franklin County and this district for years and years," said Chambersburg Mayor Robert Morris. "He has brought a lot of our tax money back into the district."

Shuster was in Chambersburg in November to help with the ceremonial removal of the railroad tracks that run through the downtown.

Shuster donned a hard-hat and pulled out a spike in the tracks after the final train ran by. He was responsible for securing several million dollars to reroute the trains out of the downtown during the 1990s.

Punt said he has worked closely with Shuster for 23 years and was saddened to learn he was retiring.

One project on which the two worked was the ongoing Route 30 initiative that included resurfacing 10 miles of the well-traveled road from Fayetteville east last summer and the widening of the road to five lanes from Fayetteville, Pa., to Chambersburg, Pa., in the near future.

Despite coming from different political parties, Coy said he and Shuster worked well together to improve the transportation and infrastructure in Franklin county.

"I think it is a definite loss for Franklin County and for that matter all of Pennsylvania," Coy said.

Ross said Shuster was instrumental in bringing more than $6 million to the county in federal Economic Development Administration funds to support the reuse of Letterkenny Army Depot.

"This announcement is a blow to Franklin county and the overall 9th Congressional District and a blow to Pennsylvania," Ross said. "He had a wide-ranging influence."

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