PUNXSUTAWNEY — Break out the red carpet for the Groundhog Day trek to Gobbler's Knob for two important figures: Punxsutawney Phil and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
The Groundhog Club's Inner Circle confirmed last week that Corbett and his wife, Susan, will indeed attend Groundhog Day 2012, serving as the guest speaker at the annual Groundhog Banquet Feb. 1 and making the trek with the Inner Circle the morning of Feb. 2.
The official announcement from the Inner Circle coincides with the first day — today — that tickets for the banquet will be available.
The banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in the cafeteria of Punxustawney Area High School. Tickets will be available from only Linda Shaffer, administrative assistant, at the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, 102 West Mahoning St.
“We invited him, and he accepted,” Inner Circle Vice-President Mike Johnston said.“Sam Smith has been our liaison.”
Smith, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, said he asked Corbett about murmurings he had heard about wanting to attend Groundhog Day.
“‘The rumor in Punxsy is that you want to come,’ I said,” Smith said. “He said, ‘I would be willing to do that.’”
And thus, the invitation and the acceptance are cemented, and Corbett is set to become the second-seated Pennsylvania governor to attend Groundhog Day. Corbett's predecessor, Ed Rendell, attended in 2003.
Jan. 18, 2011, Corbett, a Republican, was inaugurated as the 46th governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having defeated Allegheny County Democrat Dan Onorato in the general election in November 2010.
Prior to becoming governor, Corbett — who was born in Philadelphia — was a key advisor to U.S. Presidents and governors. In the early 1980s, Corbett served President Ronald Reagan as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, specializing in prosecuting organized crime and drug cases. He was also named as one of the first members of Reagan's National Drug Task Force.
Following several years of private law practice, Corbett was called back to public service in 1989, when President George H. W. Bush appointed him to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
In the 1990s, Corbett provided criminal law and policy expertise to then-Congressman Tom Ridge, later filling several key roles in Ridge's administration.
In 1995, Corbett was nominated by Ridge as attorney general to fill the unexpired term of Attorney General Ernie Preate, serving in this capacity from 1995-1997.
In 1997, Corbett returned to the private practice of law in Pittsburgh, but in 2008, Corbett was re-elected as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General with more than three million votes.
Tom and Susan Corbett currently reside at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg, but maintain their family home in Shaler Township, Allegheny County.
The Corbetts are the parents of two children: Tom, who operates a media lab in New York City, and Katherine, a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.