This weekend, I conducted a short e-mail interview with Barron “Boots” Hetherington, who announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for 124th district representative seat vacated by Senator-elect Dave Argall (R-29). Hetherington is the owner/operator B&R Farms in Ringtown and former GOP state committeeman, who has run unsuccessfully for a pair of public offices in the past two election cycles: Register of Wills in 2007 and re-election to GOP State Committee in 2008.
Clarke Report: Why are you entering this race?
Boots Hetherington: I have dedicated my life to public service and this is a natural extension of my experience and abilities.
CR: What experience do you bring to the table?
BH: B & R FARMS – 29 years of experience managing a successful business in addition to providing employment and mentoring opportunities for local high school and college students.
Briar Creek Mutual Insurance – 6 years as a member of the board of directors with annual premiums of $4.25 million and an AM Best A+ rating.
PA USDA Farm Service Committee – 8 years as Chairperson, providing oversight for 50 statewide offices with 228 employees and an annul budget exceeding $18 million.
The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees – elected in 2006 by 220 statewide agricultural organizations. The board manages a $3.4 billion annual budget and cares for the education and welfare of over 90,000 students.
CR: What will be your top three priorities if elected?
BH: 1. Property Tax Reform – Totally eliminate property taxes as the source of school funding.
2. Spending Priorities – Local revenues have been diverted to other areas of the state. Those funds must return to our district and work for the people of the 124th.
3. Education – Increase the quality and availability of education/training programs to create family sustaining jobs within our district.
CR: What differences exist between you and your chief competitor Jerry Knowles?
BH: I have varied life experiences that I bring to the table. I have worked as a substitute teacher, I’m a CDL licensed truck driver, I’m a small business owner, I have government experience at the local, state and federal levels. In addition, I have a strong work ethic and possess farm family values. I have a deep connection to the 124th district where my family has lived for over 150 years.
CR: There are many rumors swirling around about just how Harrisburg will redraw the legislative districts in 2010. One of the various scenarios supposedly being considered by Dave Argall is to remove Orwigsburg and West Brunswick from the 124th and place it in the 129thin order to secure a Tamaqua-area dynasty by removing potential future challengers like myself and Gretchen Sterns. Are you in favor of such of a plan?
BH: Although legislative re-districting is a possibility, it is not something that I can consider at the present time. My campaign is focused on serving the citizens of the 124th as it currently stands. When the topic of re-districting comes to the table, I will focus on doing what is in the best interests of this district.
CR: If you defeat Jerry Knowles, despite the fact that he will probably be endorsed by Argall, do you expect the full support of the Schuylkill GOP Committee?
BH: I am running a campaign to win the support of all people in the 124th District, not a campaign to defeat a single opponent. The Schuylkill and Berks GOP has pledged its support to get behind the chosen candidate.
CR: To what issues can you speak to northern Berks County voters that will allow you to carry that area?
BH: If I am worthy to receive the nomination of the Republican Party for the 124th District, I am committed to running a campaign that involves both Berks and Schuylkill counties
and serving the needs of all citizens in this district, regardless of their location relative to Interstate 78. The issues of property taxes, education, jobs and infrastructure are common to the entire district.
CR: If you had a choice of committee assignment in the House, what would it be?
BH: Finance, Transportation, Agriculture and Rural Affairs in that order
I’ve met Boots on two different occasions. He is a very affable man, who is keenly knowledgeable about the issues, but what I think I like most is that he is straightforward and plain spoken. He doesn’t try to wow you with oratory in everyday conversation like other politicians do. Rather, he speaks to you as an ordinary man. One thing is for sure, we need more ordinary men in Harrisburg.