Like father, like son
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Thomas "Tom" C. Gerhard, left, was a Carbon County Commissioner from 1992 to 2003. His son, Thomas J. Gerhard, is currently a Carbon County Commissioner, having been elected in November. It's the first time a father and son had held commissioner seats in Carbon County.
Back in 2003, when Thomas "Tom" C. Gerhard fulfilled his third term as a Carbon County Commissioner and opted not to seek re-election, he asked his son, Thomas J. Gerhard, to run for the office.
"I wasn't ready," the younger Gerhard said.
In March 2010, the son was asked again to run for the commissioner post, this time by Wayne Nothstein who was seeking re-election and needed a running mate. This time Gerhard responded affirmatively.
Last November, Gerhard and Nothstein, both Republicans, were both elected. Gerhard's election was historic in that it is the first time in the county that a father and a son both served as commissioners.
"I'm proud of him," the senior Gerhard said. "I'm confident he will make the right decisions. When I ran, I said I was not politically correct but I'm not a liar like the rest of them. I guarantee I'll be watching him."
The younger Gerhard laughed, alluding to his dad's remark about oversight.
"There's a lot of pressure on," he said.
Tom Gerhard, who turns 79 on Feb. 13, served as Carbon County Commissioner from 1992 to 2003.
He was previously on the board of supervisors in Packer Township, serving three six-year terms. He was chairman for six years.
Thomas J. Gerhard, 55, served on the Packer Township board of supervisors for two terms prior to becoming county commissioner. He was also chairman for about six years.
Both Gerhards are lifelong residents of the Weatherly area.
Thomas J. said when he was young, he had no interest in politics. He graduated from Weatherly High School in 1974 but back then, he said a lot of graduates didn't go off to college.
The Gerhards owned and operated a roofing business. Besides working with his father in the business, the son also drove trucks and buses.
"I knew I had a job with my dad and I was very successful at it," Thomas J. said.
He recalls his father often telling him, "You hear many people complain about the county and township, but they don't get involved."
That remark, embedded in his memory, spurred his decision to run for township supervisor.
He also wouldn't have run for commissioner had it not been for Nothstein calling him.
"I thank Wayne for reaching out to me," he said. "We were involved in a very aggressive campaign. We spent nearly 20 months on the road."
Asked if he and his father ever butt heads on issues, Thomas J. replied, "I don't think so."
"It's good to turn to someone like my dad," he explained. "And, I have a good coach with Wayne. I've told people to take their time and be patient and I'll be a successful commissioner."
Upon visiting his son at the Carbon County Courthouse annex, the elder Gerhard said his son has basically the same office staff as when he served.
"They know their jobs," he remarked. "You have an excellent office staff here."
Thomas J. is married to the former Sue Ann Raynock. They have two children, Jennifer, 31, and Kathy, 28.
Thomas C. is married to the former Betty Kovalick. They have five children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
The elder Gerhard said when he was commissioner, his big issues were clean air and clean water, and speaking out against wasteful government spending.
Thomas J. Gerhard said his current concerns are the lack of jobs and economic development in Carbon County.
"I'm also big on the environment," he said.
In 2007, while he was a member of the Packer Township Board of Supervisors, the township passed a sewage ordinance to prevent sludge from coming into the township. It was challenged by then Attorney General Tom Corbett who ordered the township to reverse the ordinance. The township refused and the case is still pending.
"I think one of the biggest responsibilities of elected officials is to provide a safe and healthy environment," Thomas J. said.
Regarding taking on a seat once held by his father, Thomas J. realizes he has some big shoes to fill, but he has been receiving plenty of support.
"It's important to reach out to these people and that's what I intend to do," he said. "I look forward to doing a good job and making good decisions; and representing all the people of Carbon County."
His father also added some sound advice.
"One thing I stressed to him is before you sell your job, you have to sell yourself," the elder Gerhard stressed. "Tell the truth. I don't care if it's politically correct or not."