Jerry Knowles' career in public service will be acknowledged publicly and with appreciation when the Panther Valley Irish-American Association holds its 64th Annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner on Thursday, March 17.

Knowles, who has been serving in the Pa. General Assembly since winning a special election in June 2009 for a seat in the House of Representatives, will receive the annual Shamrock Award that night from PVIAA President Daniel McAndrew of Summit Hill, officially designating him as "Irishman of the Year" in the Carbon-East Schuylkill area. The event will take place at The Grand Ballroom of Kelly's Irish Pub, in Lansford, beginning with a social hour from 5:30-6:30 p.m., and followed by the dinner and program.

Billy O'Gurek Jr., Summit Hill, PVIAA immediate past president, will be the toastmaster.

"It is with great pleasure that we are proud to announce the selection of Rep. Knowles as the Shamrock Award winner," said McAndrew. "He is a great choice since he has given back to the community in countless ways."

Citing Knowles' record of public service and civic involvement, McAndrew added, "Jerry has always been known for making a positive difference in the lives of others and we look forward to celebrating his many accomplishments at the dinner."

The association's Recipient Committee this year is comprised of McAndrew, John Tracy, Tim Hoben, Emmett McCall and Michael Crampsie.

"This is certainly quite an honor," the legislator said. "I know my parents (the late James and Emily [Ward] Knowles,) if they were alive, what it would mean to them, particularly my father who loved his ancestry. And my mother, she was so proud of her family and my father, and his Irish heritage as well."

Knowles continued, "I am really, really honored. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it (being selected). I was kind of shocked, but as I reflect on what that night is all about, it'll be kind of neat."

In his House assignments, Knowles serves as chairman of the Local Government, Subcommittee on Townships Committee and as a member of the Commerce, Gaming Oversight and State Government committees. He was also recently appointed to the Small Business Task Force of the House Republican Policy Committee.

In addition to serving the 124th Legislative District, Knowles has built a lifetime of public service. Prior to being elected to the state House, he served as a special projects coordinator for more than 10 years for then state Rep. David Argall, whom he succeeded after the latter was elected to the Pa. Senate.

Before that, Knowles was a Schuylkill County Commissioner for six years and previously was the mayor of Tamaqua.

His long record of public service actually began with his appointment as a full-time police officer in his hometown, and continued in a career of about 30 years as an active fireman and also as a corpsman for the Tamaqua Ambulance.

He later served as a member of the Tamaqua Borough Council before winning the mayor's office.

He also has small business experience as the proprietor of a successful retail grocery store in Tamaqua for several years.

In 2007, Knowles was named the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce's 44th Annual Citizenship Award winner for distinguished service to his community.

A 1966 graduate of Marian High School and 1969 graduate of Thaddeus Stevens Trade School, Lancaster, he is a member of the South Ward Fire Co., Knights of Columbus Council No. 2711, Elks Lodge No. 592 and the Lions Club, all of Tamaqua, and the Schuylkill County Republican Executive Committee.

Knowles was the guest speaker at the 63rd Annual Banquet of the PVIAA in 2010.

In addition to his professional endeavors, Knowles is also active in the local community, serving as board member and a past president of the Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprise and the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce.

He also served on the board of the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society, and is a longtime emcee of the society's annual telethon.

Knowles is married to the former Lorraine David of McAdoo for 36 years. They have two sons, Shane and Patrick, and a grandson Patrick.

Entertainment for the evening will be provided by the father-and-son folk duo of Pat and Shane McGeehan.

Tickets to the dinner can be obtained from the following association members: Summit Hill, Bob Crampsie and Billy O'Gurek; Lansford, Emmett McCall; Coaldale, Bob Ames and Tim Hoben; and Tamaqua, John Tracey and Tom McCarroll.