There are many and varied pathways that people have taken to get to their seats in the Pennsylvania legislature, but perhaps none more unique that the one taken by Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland, Snyder) to get to her spot representing the 108th district.
Actually she’s been in the district office for quite some time and involved in politics for quite some time, thanks to her father, who was a city councilman back in the day.
“Our gift when we turned 18 was our voter registration card,” Culver told me in her Capitol office. “That is a big deal for all of us. None of us miss an election.”
The fateful day that would chart her professional course in life came one day when her father, who was also an athletic director at a local school, took Lynda to an event recognizing the wrestling team for winning the state title. State Rep. Merle Phillips of the 108th was there handing out citations. He was also looking for a summer intern and Lynda had just graduated from high school. She was looking for a job to help pay for college.
“I interviewed for the job. He offered it to me and I’ve worked there ever since,” Culver said. “My junior and senior year I actually commuted from college back down to work for him a couple of days a week.”
Culver figured she would just stick it out for what she thought would be a short time until Phillips retired, which he did. 21 years later!! She would run to replace him. At first it started out as more of a jog than a run.
“I didn’t go kicking and screaming but I had to get a hard shove through the door to run,” Culver said. “It wasn’t popular yet for women to run. I worried about making the transition from providing constituent service and maybe not being as involved. But with a district of about 63,000 you can be more intimate than a district with 250,000 or 750,000. I like that piece of it. I like to know what’s going on. When I vote on a bill I like to be able to think of a group, a constituent, information, either by web or email that people have contacted me asking questions, wanting to know about the bill…supporting it, or not supporting it. I don’t feel like I’ve done my job unless I know where my district stands on a particular bill.”
As far as introducing bills goes, Culver is of the school of thought less is better than more. She’s not one to think there isn’t enough legislation.
“We normally introduce about 3,000 bills a year,” she said. “How many of those become law? Not a large percentage–between three and six-hundred. I’m more centered around my district, solving problems as them come up, anticipating problems and reaching out to my constituents. Most of my legislation comes organically as I like to say, or home-grown. When there’s a problem or issue back home, that’s how most of my legislation comes about.”
Culver is currently working on a package of bills that would protect senior citizens. Her part of the project is financial exploitation. She’s working with district attorneys and the State Police to have it defined in the law.
“What is financial exploitation,” she explained. “We just had one case in the district where a care-giver laced an elderly couple’s cigarettes with poison. Both ended up at the hospital. One passed away and one lived. The care-giver has since been arrested but had already been taking money out of their bank accounts. You hear and see it often.”