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McCall calls it quits

  • FILE PHOTO State Rep. Keith McCall
    FILE PHOTO State Rep. Keith McCall
Published January 12. 2010 11:49AM

State Rep. Keith R. McCall announced Tuesday he will step down from elected office when his term ends in December in order to spend more time with his family.

The surprise announcement came a year and a few days after the Carbon County Democrat was sworn in as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and 28 years after he launched his first term in state office in 1982 after the death of his father, the late state Rep. Thomas J. McCall.

"This decision is about my family. I first came to Harrisburg as a single 22-year-old man following in his father's footsteps," McCall said. "Now I have a wonderful wife and two amazing children all of whom I owe not only my thanks, but also a lot of missed dinners, football and baseball games, volleyball games and help with homework.

"As much as I care for the institution of the House, I love my family, and it's long overdue that I put them first. After 2010 is over I know I will miss the House and the wonderful members and staff with whom I've been blessed to serve, but, I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing for myself and my family," he said.

McCall, 50, said he's looking forward to attending sports and school functions with daughter Courtney, 11, son Keith Robert II, 9, and Betty, his wife of 13 years.

The McCall family has held the representative's seat for 34 years. Keith McCall was elected to represent the 122nd District following his father's sudden death on Christmas Eve, 1981. The elder McCall had held the seat since 1975. Keith McCall launched his 14th term as a state representative in January 2009 after winning election over Republican opponent Doyle Heffley.

McCall, who had served as Majority Whip, was unanimously elected House Speaker the first to hail from Carbon County on Jan. 6, 2009.

He stepped into the speaker's role as the state was poised to begin a protracted partisan battle over a 2009-2010 budget that stretched to Oct. 9, suspending paychecks for hundreds of state workers and prompting bitter verbal sparring between the parties.

More recently, McCall has been working to alleviate the impact of expected 30 percent electricity price increases on consumers. He has been pushing for a "phase-in" for the PPL rate increase.

McCall served on the Transportation and Consumer Affairs committees, and his political career was studded with accomplishments, including bringing more than $55 million to improve railroad infrastructure, which has generated more than 20,000 new jobs in construction and transportation-related industries. He also wrote and pushed for stronger laws to protect homeowners from shady contractors.

He has worked to obtain grants for numerous local projects, including $5.5 million to help build a solar energy park in Nesquehoning; money to help pay for sewer systems in Palmerton; funds to refurbish Lehighton's public swimming pool; arranging $1.25 million for a fire house, police station and borough office in Summit Hill; $1.5 million for the Panther Valley football stadium in Lansford; and $120,000 for mass transit for Carbon County.

McCall has brought millions of dollars to develop the Greenwood Industrial Park in Nesquehoning and has authored legislation to provide more than $55 million for railroad infrastructure improvements throughout the state. An avid outdoorsman, McCall has brought dollars to improve Lehigh Gorge State Park.

He arranged funding to build a visitors' center in White Haven for the Delaware and Lehigh Navigation Canal National Heritage Corridor, and improved launch sites on the Lehigh River within the park. McCall has also gotten monies to preserve and maintain numerous historic sites in his district, including the Jim Thorpe downtown district, which has been featured in travel magazines nationwide.

A June 2009 AP story reported that Carbon County was the second-highest grant recipient in Pennsylvania on a per-capita basis.

But despite the accomplishments, McCall faced challenges in his 14-term journey through state politics. He was taken to task by many for voting for and accepting a legislative pay raise in 2005 that sparked taxpayer protest. His decision as Speaker to enjoin mention of Jesus in public prayers offered in the state legislature raised the ire of a Gettysburg area pastor. McCall explained the policy was meant to avoid lawsuits from those who object to prayers offered in state offices in the name of specific religions.

Through it all, McCall has maintained his warm and affable nature, steadily forging ahead to meet his goals and making time to meet with constituents.

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