Wayne commissioner runs for state office

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 5/12/22

HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County Commissioner and former Western Wayne School District superintendent Joe Adams is running to represent Wayne and Pike counties in Harrisburg.

Longtime incumbent …

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Wayne commissioner runs for state office

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HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County Commissioner and former Western Wayne School District superintendent Joe Adams is running to represent Wayne and Pike counties in Harrisburg.

Longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Peifer is not seeking re-election for his seat representing the 139th District in the PA General Assembly. His district encompasses parts of Pike County (the townships of Blooming Grove, Dingman, Greene, Lackawaxen, Milford, Palmyra, Shohola and Westfall townships, plus Matamoras and Milford boroughs), and parts of Wayne County (the townships of Cherry Ridge, Dreher, Lake, Lehigh, Palmyra, Paupack, Salem, South Canaan and Sterling; as well as Hawley Borough).

Since Peifer announced his plans to step down, five candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. Adams is running on the Republican ticket against Robert Beierle—co-founder and publisher of the local publicationOur Town—and Pike County resident Elefterie Balu. Forester and environmentalist Marian Keegan is running on the Democratic side, as is educator and legal professional Meghan Rosenfeld.

Education and professional background

Joe Adams graduated from Wallenpaupack High School and later received a master’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Scranton. He served as Wallenpaupack Area School District’s business manager for 12 years, a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley for three years, vice president and senior vice president at the Dime Bank for 13 years, and spent two years as Western Wayne’s superintendent before retiring in 2017.

He has served on the Board of Commissioners in Wayne County for the past five years.

“My entire life I’ve lived in rural Wayne and Pike counties. My entire business life I’ve served people—whether it was at Wallenpaupack School District or the Dime Bank—and I had over 2,000 clients in rural Wayne and Pike counties... so I know the counties, I know the people and I know the issues,” Adams said. “Our family’s been here for seven generations; I don’t know many families that have more than seven generations in Wayne and Pike counties.”

Local economy

With his experience in the world of finance, Adams says economic growth and development are at the top of his list of priorities. The commonwealth is currently flush with cash that came in from the American Rescue Plan. Adams said he would be “uniquely qualified” to ensure that Wayne and Pike received their fair share of that money, which they’ve gotten “very little of” in the past. Pointing to the Sterling Business & Technology Park just off Interstate 84, Adams said Wayne County is poised to welcome a big employer like Amazon or Chewy (a large online retailer of pet products) to the local economy.

“If we can get a large warehouse—an Amazon fulfillment center or something like that—right off of I-84, that’s already in place with very little impact to the residential community, it would be great to have 700 to 1,000 jobs with $20-an-hour starting pay for our community, and that’s something that we currently lack,” Adams said.

He also wants to cut down on some of the regulatory obstacles in place that make it harder for residents to start or grow their own small businesses.

“We can’t continue to have the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers and everybody else take 18 months to two years for a small business to get a permit to clear two acres and put an addition on their business,” he said. “We need economic development, which spurs jobs, which spurs population growth... we need to provide those opportunities and take those roadblocks away.”

First responders

Adams also listed ideas he has to improve public safety throughout the region. Manpower in local police departments has dropped significantly in recent years and there aren’t enough state troopers to fill that gap. Adams blames an “antiquated formula” that leaves the PA state police barracks in Blooming Grove and Cherry Ridge “brutally understaffed.” He said that there are often only two state police cars on the road throughout all 74 miles of Wayne County.

“The economic realities for our boroughs and townships have pushed them to the point that they all just have part-time police forces,” he said, recalling that when his father was mayor of Hawley in the late 1970s, boroughs like Hawley, Honesdale and Waymart all had full-time police departments. “Funding and doing whatever we can from a police standpoint is a big deal.”

From another first-responder standpoint, Adams pointed out that volunteers make up the vast majority of EMTs and firefighters throughout the area. Volunteerism, however, is waning throughout the country. And the alternative to volunteers, Adams said, would be to have paid fire  departments, like the state’s bigger cities have, but cost communities millions in taxes.

“It’s not a situation where we can just think that it’s just going to be fine, because it’s not just going to be fine,” he said. “Our communities are growing in population, are changing in demographics and there’s a bigger expectation for emergency services.”

Adams’ solution: Give emergency service volunteers a tax credit for the time they put in.

“Let’s give the people—who have been volunteering their time and risking their lives to protect the community—a tax credit, and fund their training and fund their equipment,” he said. “If we don’t do that, we’re going to find ourselves not having enough volunteers.”

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