Being an educator in and of itself is a civic calling and major community responsibility. And then there are those PSEA members who also want to further serve by holding political office.
Municipal, school board, and judicial seats are the offices on the ballot in the November general election. They may not be marquee races, but they are vitally important in the day-to-day lives of citizens. As is often said, local government is the government closest to the people.
“Educators are natural leaders,’’ said PSEA Vice President Aaron Chapin. “And they are also very civic-minded. Some choose to serve their communities through various organizations, and some decide to seek political office. PSEA is very proud of the work our members do beyond their school professions and careers.’’
There are PSEA members seeking office this fall. Here is a look at three:
Miller seeks county treasurer’s post
The treasurer of a county with 250,000 people carries a lot of responsibility, but Jake Miller feels he is ready to take it on.
So Miller, a middle school teacher in the Cumberland Valley School District and past president of the Cumberland Valley Education Association, is running for Cumberland County treasurer.
“It’s a pretty big responsibility to take on,’’ Miller said. “You certainly feel the heaviness of the bat that you are swinging.’’
He notes that in addition to watching over the books and making sure finances are in good order, the treasurer’s office is responsible for various licenses people need in their everyday lives, such as dog licenses.
“It’s an office that interacts with people, and I like that,’’ Miller said.
Miller has been following politics since he was 10 years old, when he canvassed for his father’s campaign for mayor of his hometown of Jim Thorpe. He also volunteered for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns. He has attended every presidential inauguration since Clinton’s first term.
“I would say to my fellow PSEA members, we need to support educators as citizen leaders,’’ Miller said. “We are well-qualified to serve.’’
Being candidate provides teaching opportunity
As a social studies teacher, Vicki Buzan sees running for political office as a teachable moment.
Buzan, who is running for auditor of Buckingham Township, a Bucks County municipality with more than 20,000 residents, says the campaign not only has been a learning experience for her as a first-time candidate, but it is also providing lessons for her seventh- and eighth-grade students in the Centennial School District.
“I’ve been able to talk to my students about getting involved,’’ said Buzan, a past secretary of the Centennial EA and currently its PACE chair. “We’ve talked about nominating petitions and campaigning. As a mother and a teacher, I want to be an example and role model for my children and students.
“When I was asked to run for auditor, I thought this would be a great opportunity inside and outside of the classroom. I can bring it to students live and in person.’’
Buzan entertained an opportunity to run for the state Legislature but loves teaching and didn’t want to give that up. Getting involved in municipal government was the perfect entry.
“Locally elected officials have an opportunity to bridge divides and focus on the reasons we choose to live in our communities,’’ Buzan said. “I want to do what I can to make a positive difference – no matter how small.’’
Retired educator running for county commissioner
When PSEA members contribute to PSEA-PACE they are helping to elect pro-public education candidates of both parties.
And until recently, contributing to PACE was the extent of Kevin Jones’ involvement in politics.
But he said he got the itch “to do more’’ so he retired as a history teacher in the Albert Gallatin School District to both start a business and to run for Fayette County commissioner.
“As educators we see the world through the eyes of students, we see it through the eyes of their parents, and it gives you a different understanding of problems in your county,’’ said Jones, a former president of the Albert Gallatin EA. “It is a perspective not usually associated with people running for office.’’
Jones said he was planning to run for county commissioner in four years, but a longtime incumbent decided not to seek re-election this year.
“I had no choice. I had to step in,’’ he said. “Sometimes you have to strike when the iron is hot.’’
Jones has picked up endorsements from the United Mine Workers Union and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, and he said his PSEA experience has been invaluable in courting union workers.
“I think what other educators need to hear, particularly those of us who have served in leadership positions, is ‘we can do this. We have what it takes. We do it every day.’ Sometimes we are not just mentoring students, we are also mentoring parents on how to have their children perform better.’’
As for campaigning, Jones, laughing, said “it’s the longest job interview of my life.’’