In his closing comments at Thursday morning's Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Bruce L. Castor, Jr. spoke at some length about the recent death of Senator Arlen Specter, praising him as a great Pennsylvania statesman who did not allow political differences with his colleagues to make "practical" decisions that allowed the government to function properly on behalf of the people.
A full transcript of Castor's remarks follows.
Montgomery County, in my judgement, lost a great friend this week in Senator Arlen Specter. There is no question that from a political standpoint, Senator Specter marched to his own drum, but there's an entire body of work that the public might not know about when you're dealing with a public official of that stature.
I knew Arlen for many years, and when I was District Attorney, he and I interacted a great deal on law enforcement matters. And as my fellow Commissioners will attest, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology, the single most important thing in government service at the level that we are at is the ability to pick up a telephone and call another government official and make something happen that is important to a constituent or to a group of people that we represent. That transcends party lines, transcends ideological lines, and it is simply the manifestation of doing the job that you were elected to do.
A lot of people don't realize that there is a major difference between running for office and espousing political points of view and being in office and making things run smoothly and making things happen and making things go well. I'd like to think that the three of us [Castor and fellow county commissioners Leslie Richards and Josh Shapiro] have bridged that gap from the campaign to the governing realm.
With Senator Specter, regardless of whether I agreed with everything that he believed in concerning the major political issues of the day, he was a man that I could call. When I was in the [district attorney's] office and asked for special attention to a matter of importance to law enforcement, I always got a call back, and I always got an effort to help. I remember plenty of anecdotes where very bad things would have happened had I not had a lot of red tape cut because I could pick up the phone and call Senator Specter.
Some of you will remember that Senator Specter appeared on my behalf on a number of occasions and, in fact, introduced me when I was running for office one time over across the street [at the county courthouse]. A photograph of that hangs in my office. Commissioner Shapiro and I went to his funeral; just like at the State of the Union, one of us had to remain behind to run the government, and that was Commissioner Richards. Commissioner Shapiro and I went to the funeral and we heard people of great import speak on Senator Specter's behalf. It was quite a well done ceremony.
But the practicality of politics was the common theme. That Senator Specter tried to make practical decisions based on what he thought was right. That is something that I believe that in politics there's too little of, and we see that coming out on the state and on the national stage even today. I think that's a sad thing, that we've reached the point were political campaigns and ideological litmus tests have crossed over from a campaign stage to the governing stage.
I think Senator Specter's life in public service was an example of how government ought to run. Even if we don't agree, we try to find a way to make it work. That is an example that I believe the three of us are trying to set. It was certainly a theme at Senator Specter's funeral, and I think it's fair to say that Pennsylvania lost a lion of politics, a lion of statemanship in its history, a man that reflected values that may or may not ever be seen again in this Commonwealth.
I thought it was important to recognize the passing of Senator Specter and his tremendous life of service to Pennsylvania and to Montgomery County.