BROOKVILLE — “The bus stops here” was the slogan of the day when U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R-5) bus tour paid a visit to the Jefferson County Courthouse Friday during his 2012 election announcement tour.
“We’re in the middle of a four-day, 16-county, 23-stop 700-mile campaign bus kickoff,” he said, adding that he does three things when running for reelection: He works hard, he does the right things, and he communicates with his constituents.
Thompson said he likes the message it sends when he’s running for re-election every two years.
“My staff and I jump on a bus and travel 700 miles throughout the congressional district in just a couple of days, stopping in all of the counties and visiting as many municipalities as possible,” he said. “It’s about service. I believe strongly in that.”
Thompson said his son got him a T-shirt bearing a picture of the nation’s founding fathers, reading, “Congress is a Service not a Profession.”
“It’s all about serving you,” he said. “For three decades, I did that as a nursing home administrator serving people with life changing diseases and disabilities. When I came to Congress, it wasn’t to add to a resume. I’m pretty satisfied where mine ended when I left my healthcare career.”
Thompson said the 5th district is going change, as 25 percent of the district will be new next January. Part of that is hard, he said, and the hard part is leaving an area where one develops friendships and relationships.
“I kind of live in a parallel universe,” he said. “Right now, I have the district I serve, and I’ve got the district I’m seeking reelection to.”
But, he said, he great part of redistricting — Thompson’s picking up two-thirds of Huntingdon County and two-thirds of Erie County — is there will be new constituents on board.
Thompson said two things happened to him since the last election that he never thought would..
“I got to serve in the majority — I found that is much better than serving in the minority,” he said, and he also became a committee chairperson for the largest sub-committee on agriculture: Conservation, energy, forestry and watersheds.
Thompson is also a member of the educational workforce committee, as education has always been an important part of his life.
“I happen to believe that the No. 1 asset to this country’s future and small businesses is a qualified and trained worker,” he said.
But noting that the U.S. unemployment rate has been more than eight percent for the past three years, Thompson gave the example of people sitting around dining room tables, numbering the population of Pennsylvania, 14 million across the nation, worrying about how to make ends meet because someone has been laid off and they don’t have a job.
“The interesting part of that is, as I go around Jefferson County and all the other counties, there are employers who have really good jobs that are sitting open because it cannot find someone who is trained to fill it,” he said.
Thompson said what is occurring is the skills gap: There are people who need jobs, employers that need a qualified, trained employees, yet there are individuals who don’t have that training.
“That is why my work on the Education Workforce Committee is focused on zeroing in on that issue,” Thompson said, noting that the committee is also reforming “No Child Left Behind.”
Next week, when he’s back in Washington, there are two bills, student success act and a innovative bill for teachers that are going to address all of the issues, he said.
“After three years in Washington, I’ve come to the conclusion there are no experts on education in Washington,” Thompson said, adding that the experts are all back in the home communities — teachers, school board members, administrators and parents.
“We need to get our parents out of the bleachers and back in the classroom,” he said. “We’ve done a pretty good job in our elementary schools, but we’ve discouraged their presence when it comes to high school. We need that kind of self-responsibility and accountability that parents bring to education.”
Thompson said he’s also looking at the bureaucracy and unfunded mandates that the federal government puts on universities, because that gets passed along in the form of higher tuition.
He also chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education caucus, saying, “There are a lot of kids who are just going into the workforce when they graduate from high school. What do we use standardized testing for?
“We are encouraging the schools to make sure the kids are job ready,” he said. “The districts could possibly form advisory committees, bring business and industry into the school districts and what are the jobs that employers are looking to hire for.”