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Residents honored for 50 years of voting

During his 41-year career as an educator in Hazleton, Joseph Clark had an important piece of advice for his government students.

“I would always tell them, if I had absolute rule I would make a law that says if you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” Clark, a Banks Township resident, said.

On Friday morning, Clark and 14 other Carbon County residents who have voted in 50 or more consecutive elections were honored by local government officials at a breakfast in Penn Forest Township.

The event, held at the Whispering Pines Banquet Hall, was sponsored by state Rep. Doyle Heffley and state Sen. Dave Argall.

“When our Founding Fathers set up our democracy and this political system, they had folks like yourself in mind,” Heffley told the honorees. “You’re an engaged electorate, you’re part of your community and you’re making a difference.”

Each honoree received a certificate from Heffley, Argall and Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein. In total, 38 county residents qualified for the event.

“These residents have taken their voting seriously for a long time and it’s important to honor them,” Argall said before Friday’s breakfast. “When I teach at some colleges, the textbook definition of politics is who gets what. Elected officials can really move a community ahead and the opposite can also happen. That is what makes voting such a very important obligation.”

Clark said he has voted 53 straight years because, as he taught his students, it is the only way to make changes.

“It is the key to democracy and the key to our government,” he said. “If we don’t vote, we’re stuck with whatever we have at that current time.”

Nothstein, a longtime county commissioner, said younger voters are getting to the polls, which he called a good sign for the future of democracy.

“It is a changing climate when it comes to elections,” Nothstein said. “To have 55% of voters come out in an election year like this year is unbelievable. It’s incredible so many people woke up and started taking an interest in what is happening locally and at the state and federal level. Hopefully in 50 years we’ll have three times the amount of people at this event.”

In many political races where the final margin is thousands of votes apart, residents often feel there ballot isn’t impactful. Locally, however, the story is often different.

“A lot of times these local elections hinge on one or two votes,” Heffley said. “It has happened several times in Lower Towamensing Township, where I reside. We also had state house races this year determined by 60 votes, so every single voter is important.”

Friday’s breakfast was the first official local event for Argall, who took over representation of Carbon County in the state senate.

Argall said he’s been welcomed to the area with open arms.

“We’re trying to make things just a little bit better here and to me that is what this job is all about,” he said.

Several other elected officials such as state Rep. Jerry Knowles and many of Carbon County’s row officers attended the event to honor the county’s longtime voters.

“I think it’s great that they do this,” Clark said. “You certainly don’t look for any recognition as a voter, but it’s always nice to get a pat on the back.”

Joseph Clark of Banks Township, second from left, received a certificate from state Sen. Dave Argall, far right, on Friday morning for having voted in 53 consecutive elections. Looking on are state Rep. Doyle Heffley, far left, and Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, second from right. Fifteen longtime Carbon County voters were honored at a breakfast in Penn Forest Township. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
Ann Marie Fritzinger, left, of Nesquehoning makes her way through the breakfast line Friday morning at Whispering Pines Banquet Hall in Penn Forest Township. Fritzinger was one of 15 Carbon County voters who have cast a ballot in 50 or more consecutive elections honored by local government officials. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
State Sen. Dave Argall, who now represents all of Carbon County, discusses the importance of casting a ballot during an event Friday in Penn Forest Township to honor Carbon voters who have participated in 50 or more consecutive elections. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS