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Everett says farewell after 14 years in House

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, speaks with the Williamsport Sun-Gazette editorial board on Wednesday morning.

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, never figured he’d go into politics.

This week, after 14 years representing the 84th House District, he said good-bye to his colleagues in the state Legislature.

He looks back, he said, on a time of much change in state government.

Everett, 66, said overall he’s happy to have had the opportunity to have served the people.

“In the short term, I am a little disappointed with the restaurant bill,” he said.

Everett was the prime sponsor of legislation to further open restaurants to customers, a bill vetoed by Gov. Wolf that the House failed to override this week.

The fight to get bills passed, the compromises that come with a two-party system, are all part of the process.

“Walking away, I am really, really happy I had the opportunity to deal with issues that impact us and those across the state,” he said. “In essence, my job is to vote on bills in Harrisburg.”

But there are also the other pieces of business, much of it going on in his district offices in Muncy and Jersey Shore.

He thanked the various personnel working in those offices who’ve reached out to people in need of help with government issues.

“I want to thank Charley Hall, Patty Beck Henry, Carol Early, Kathy Koch, and Erica Wurster,” he said. “They have done amazing stuff for the residents of the 84th District and even the whole county. They’ve done so many great things for people. And they make me look good.”

He acknowledged the support of family members, some of whom attended his farewell speech on the House floor.

Leaving office, he said, is bittersweet as he departs with at least two issues he hoped to help solve that remain undone.

Among the issues, he said, was trying to pass a bill that ensured landowners were paid fairly for natural gas drilling.

“I was unable to get legislation passed that they don’t get unreasonable fees deducted from their royalties,” he said. “So that is a disappointment I leave with.”

Property tax reform was yet another issue that frustrated Everett.

The diversity of the state always made it a tough for any kind of solution. It was never a simple matter of rising income or sales taxes and lowering property taxes.

“What works in some areas of the state doesn’t work elsewhere,” he said. For Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the property tax isn’t as big a deal to them. Many city dwellers are renters. As you move out to our area and suburban areas, a higher percentage of people are home owners.”

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic presented its own challenges, he said.

One of the most important things he helped do, he said, was to hold the line on spending during budget time.

But he’s not yet done.

As chair of the state government committee, he said there is still work left to do with regard to the state’s voting issues.

Everett, a native of Montoursville, spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before getting his law degree and subsequently becoming an attorney in Lycoming County.

“I was a solicitor for 18 municipalities and a couple school districts,” he said.

He also got involved in the community, including helping with the building of the YMCA in Muncy.

“I was happy doing that,” he said.

At the behest of Brett Feese, a colleague and friend who was stepping down from the Legislature, Everett decided to run for his 84th House seat as a Republican.

He realized early on that it might not be so easy being elected.

A poll revealed that he had almost no name recognition.

And so, Everett went to work introducing himself.

“I knocked on more than 10,000 doors. I did phone calls,” he said.

He said he held no pre-conceived notions of what it was to be a state legislator.

Every two years, Everett faced the prospect as do all state House members, of facing re-election. And each year, he defeated his opponents in the heavily Republican district.

Over the years, he’s seen how Harrisburg politics have evolved.

He said while the political climate can be tumultuous, there still exists a collegiality among many members of the state Legislature.

The way business is conducted has perhaps changed somewhat since Everett’s early days in office, however

“Back in those days there were (Democratic House leaders) Bill DeWeese and John Perzel. It has changed significantly from the days of the kingpins,” he said.

He noted too that parts of the state such as suburban Philadelphia are no longer heavily Republican as they were when he started as a lawmaker. Meanwhile, southwestern Pennsylvania has become more Republican.

Going forward, Everett indicated no plans other than enjoying his retirement.

There’s his retreat on the Loyalsock Creek, his wife and grandchildren.

He plans to hit the road.

“My wife and I bought an RV. I have a big smile on my face,” he said.

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