On Sunday, at 76 years of age, Tom C. Gerhard stood in front of the Packer Township Municipal building, an early 20th century brick structure, as it was being dedicated to him.
He recalled attending township meetings in a pool room, that is now non-existent, and also in a former school house, which was purchased from the Weatherly School District. The township still owns that building.
Gerhard wanted a change for Packer Township, the municipality which he represented, so he set out to purchase the former Getty Tide Water Oil Company, despite criticism from others. Many people thought the building was a waste of money, but in 1982 Packer purchased the property for $60,000. In 1983, it was open to the public for monthly meetings. Today a plaque stationed at the front entrance of the building bears his name.
Dedicating the building to the former supervisor was the idea of the current vice chairman of the Packer Township supervisors, William Swinesburg. Tom J. Gerhard, chairman and son of Tom C. Gerhard; and Grover Gerhard, supervisor, unanimously agreed to move forward with the project. Tom J. joined other officials as they spoke about his father during the one-hour ceremony.
Tom J. spoke about his father growing up on a farm with his brother, Gilbert and two sisters, Mary and Alice, and picking cucumbers for a living. After marrying his wife Betty (Kovalick) Gerhard, he got a job at Tung-Sol in Weatherly. Later he began working for a local roofing company and then started his own roofing business with his son Tom.
Tom C. served as Carbon County Republican chairman and served from 1992 to 2004 on the Carbon County Board of Commissioners.
In addition to the current Packer Township supervisors, other speakers included state Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124; Carbon County Commissioners Charles Getz and Wayne Nothstein; Carbon County administrator Randy Smith; District Justice Joseph Homanko; attorney Steve Serfass; and attorney Daniel Miscavige. They spoke of how Tom inspired them and about how he was there to "get the job done and serve the people whom he represented." As the bell located outside the township building rang, the Rev. Donald Stump opened the ceremony with a prayer.
Grover Gerhard said he would never have considered getting involved with politics if it weren't for Tom C. Gerhard.
Tom J. Gerhard said he taught people how to be better in life by simply "talking to people."
"When in doubt, I still ask him for advice," said Tom J., "and so do the other supervisors."
Commenting on Gerhard being named Commissioner of the Year in 2002, Nothstein said Gerhard had done a great deal of work to obtain that title when competing against approximately 200 commissioners in the state of Pennsylvania. He also said the former supervisor and commissioner made friends with many by striking up a conversation whenever possible.
Attorney Miscavige, who is the Packer Township solicitor, said he worked with Gerhard on several government levels throughout the years, noting his objective was always very simple: "He was there to serve the people, not himself."
State Rep. Knowles said that it says something about Tom that a building was dedicated to him while is he around to enjoy it, adding that it is extremely evident the community appreciates what he has done for them.
Knowles said he will always remember a dinner conversation with Gerhard. He told Tom that he found it difficult to deal with criticism from others when making a decision. Gerhard told him if he can go to bed and sleep at night with a clear conscience, he then made the right decision.
"Tom said, 'Don't you let those buggers get you down,' and I never forgot those words," Knowles said.
Following the ceremony, a reception was held in the meeting room of the township building. Approximately 45 people attended.