Following his swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday, Jan. 29, Lebanon County’s new state Senator Dave Arnold begins his first full week in office today.
LebTown spoke with Senator Arnold in the 48th district office at the Lebanon County Municipal Building last Thursday to learn how he’s approaching the new position.
Arnold’s swearing-in culminated the special election held to fill the seat left open by the resignation of former state Senator Michael J. Folmer, who currently faces six charges by the state over allegations of possessing child pornography.
As it happens, Arnold’s victory in the Jan. 14 election might not even have been the most significant thing to occur in his life that day – it was also the same day that he “rang the bell” at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, marking the end of chemotherapy treatment for a brain cancer which had led him to suspend campaigning for a period late last year.
We began our conversation with Arnold by discussing the swearing-in ceremony.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Arnold. “I really enjoyed it, my family enjoyed it. The Capitol Building is such a beautiful building in general, that to be up there in that environment and having the other senators there, and my family and so many of our friends, it was a really exciting experience.”
Arnold said that a number of his senate colleagues, among them Senator David Argall (R-29), Senator Jake Corman (R-34), Senator John R. Gordner (R-27), and Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25), had reached out and provided advice. “They’ve been really fantastic to work with so far,” said Arnold.
Sitting not far from where he served for fourteen year’s in the Lebanon County District Attorney’s office, Arnold agreed that it was strange to no longer be doing what he called one of the best jobs out there.
“I loved being the DA, I think the time was right to move on for me, but it definitely feels strange to not go down to the basement any longer and head down there in the morning instead of what I’m doing now. But I like I said, great job and I loved it but it was time to move on.”
Arnold cited the DUI court and veterans court among his proudest accomplishments as DA. As initiatives that can benefit the community and the individual who got themselves in trouble, Arnold called these “winning programs.”
Arnold said that working with crime victims as DA provided a tremendous honor to assist them and try to make their lives better going forward.
“It’s not a whole lot different,” said Arnold of being state Senator. “I’m not talking about necessarily crime victims now, but it’s still that idea to work on behalf of the citizens.”
“It doesn’t change my perspective that I have an obligation to do the right things for our community.”
Arnold said he had a great deal of respect for that obligation and looked forward to honoring it.
The son of two Lebanon County natives – his dad from a farm in North Cornwall, his mom from the City – Arnold cited his parent’s work ethic as the inspiration of his own drive (his dad worked for Bethlehem Steel while the plant was open, his mom for a clothing factory and then as a bus driver).
“My appreciation for hard work has come from them, as I watched them do it for all those years to take care of their family.”
A graduate of the Widener University School of Law and a former criminal justice and political science student at Kutztown University, Arnold said that while in school he developed a belief that the American system of government – with a focus on small government and private industry – was the best in the world, and his coursework helped inspire a career in law.
Arnold said that he intends to have a private law office in Lebanon, and that plans were not finalized yet but pretty close. “I really enjoyed that prior to being the DA, when I was in practice,” said Arnold, “and I look forward to doing that again as well.”
Arnold said that he got to meet a lot of people from Dauphin and York counties during the campaign, and his team would like to get some kind of office in York to provide better access to their senator (with Dauphin being represented already at the Capitol).
“They were very receptive to our campaign team and myself and everyone who was out working on our behalf,” said Arnold of his new constituents in Dauphin and York counties.
Elsewhere in the interview, Arnold also made sure to thank the doctors and the staff at Penn State Hershey. “There were so many great people at Hershey Medical Center,” said Arnold.
“Even the other people who were going there for treatment were very supportive of each other and the process. . . It means a lot to have those kind of people supporting each other throughout the process.”
On Thursday afternoon, following our meeting, Arnold was named by Senate President Pro Tempore Scarnati to his first five senate committees: Education, Finance, State Government, Game and Fisheries, and Intergovernmental Operations Committees.
Education was one of the committees Arnold had expressed interest in during our interview.
“It’s such an important aspect of our community to make sure we’re educating our children responsibly,” said Arnold.
Arnold said he would also be interested in judiciary, either now or at some point in the future, given his background.
Regarding his vision for education, Arnold noted that whether talking about education or other concerns, “we need to make sure we’re cautious with spending money.”
Arnold pinpointed rising costs of employee pensions as a major issue faced in Pennsylvania public education funding, and said that 401(k) plans should be more prevalent instead.
Arnold also offered the prevailing wage as a measure that affected education as well as other government sectors. The state prevailing wage currently applies to projects of more than $25,000. “At a minimum we need to get that to a legitimate level for what the project should cost,” said Arnold.
Regarding the various property tax proposals out there, including the one by Lebanon County state Representative Frank Ryan (R-101), Arnold said he wasn’t ready to jump on board any one of them yet. “He put a lot of thought into it and I agree with aspects of it,” said Arnold of Ryan’s proposal, “but I’m not prepared to jump on board completely with the way it’s been drafted.”
“We definitely need to make improvements in that system and that will be something that I want to get started on pretty quickly, trying to get my stamp on that as well.”
Asked what he hopes people will say when he ends up leaving the office, Arnold said that he “hoped they would say that I worked hard, that I worked responsibly, that I tried to do what was in the best interest of all the citizens.”
“We have a motto in the Pennsylvania DA’s Association, that we’ve always held and in my opinion followed, and that was: Do the right thing for the right reasons.”
“That concept should apply to every public servant, whether in the DA’s (office) or now in the Senate, and I need to do the right things for the right reasons, and that’s going to be my goal.”
Arnold said that constituents with feedback for him can contact him a variety ways – by emailing or calling the office at (717) 274-6735, or scheduling an appointment to stop in.
LebTown ended the interview by asking Arnold what he would most want to share with LebTown readers.
“I just really want to thank everyone who was involved in the process,” said Arnold. “My wife and daughter, obviously; it was critical that they were in agreement with me deciding to make this change, and they were and they’ve been wonderful and they’ve worked very hard along with me.”
“My family, our friends, and of course all the people that were supportive of me as the DA and were supportive of me in this last election, all the various voters that voted for me, I’m just very appreciative of that.”
“I want them to know that I’m going to work hard and my goal is to do the right things for the right reasons, and that’s what I want to accomplish over the next term or terms or however long it winds up being.”
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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Dave Arnold and Michael Schroeder were advertisers on LebTown during the special election cycle. The campaign of Frank Ryan is an advertiser on LebTown at present. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.