Mike Sturla, a member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, was recently re-elected to another term in office. Sturla has served in PA’s House of Representatives for the past 20 years and he has worked continuously to improve Lancaster County, while observing a number of changes to the community and state politics.
Sturla, born and raised in Lancaster County, first took public office in 1987 when he was elected to the Lancaster City Council. According to his website Sturla held this office for four years while also serving on the Lancaster City Planning Commission. In 1990, he was asked to run for a seat in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives in the 96th District, which includes Lancaster City as well as areas of Lancaster Township and Manheim Township.
“I was urged by some of the constituents who liked the job I was doing on the Lancaster City Council,” Sturla said.
Sturla was elected to the State House and began his term in 1991. He has served as a state representative ever since and has been re-elected to office 11 times; last month, the incumbent Sturla defeated challenger Thomas Garman, Jr. by a margin of over 9,000 votes according to Lancaster County’s election website.
Since first taking office in 1991, Sturla has seen some of Pennsylvania’s political attitudes change.
“The climate is much more partisan,” Sturla said. “Twenty years ago, once elections were over, all parties quickly came to consensus, in that they were elected to govern and that compromising was part of that. Today, compromise is often viewed as weakness or capitulation.”
Sturla also believes the economy of Lancaster has matured.
“Fifty years ago I think the mindset was urban renewal,” Sturla said. “Tear it down, rebuild, and you are good to go for another 50 years. But about 25 years ago, Lancaster realized that’s not how it works. It is an everyday effort but that effort has produced some great results. The trick now is sustaining that effort, and not getting complacent with our community’s success.”
Sturla was elected by his fellow representatives to serve as the House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman three years ago. The Democratic Policy Committee, according to Sturla, looks at certain state or local issues in order for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party to formulate its position. The committee also meets with party members to gather information and educate their constituents about legislation and policy decisions.
One of the projects Sturla is focusing on is securing transportation funding for the state.
“Pennsylvania is home to more structurally deficient bridges and poor roadways than any state in the country,” Sturla said.
He hopes increased funding will allow for improvements to the state’s infrastructure, improving its economic competitiveness and removing the hazards presented by unsafe roads and bridges.
Sturla is also concerned with certain urban issues in Lancaster: poverty, education, and funding cuts.
“The median household income for Lancaster City in 2009 was $33,312,” said Sturla. “The statewide average was $49,520.”
This poverty has an array of repercussions, many of which affect local schools. Sturla said 1,000 children out of the 12,000 in the School District of Lancaster are identified as homeless. For this reason, Sturla is working to improve education funding for schools, especially with regard to special education. He is also working to increase funding for other services, such as local police and fire departments.
Sturla also supports education at the collegiate level; some of his initiatives have benefited F&M.
“I worked to get F&M $10 million in funding for [F&M’s] Life Sciences Building,” he said. “I also introduced legislation to adopt a one percent sales tax to help fund higher education in Pennsylvania.”
Sturla begins his 12th term as a state representative in January.
“I’m excited to be back at the Capitol to fight for the residents of Lancaster again,” he said.
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