Some time could pass before the Republican establishment and Scott Wagner reach détente, but the new senator nonetheless got an early welcome from a Harrisburg mainstay.
"Lobbyists," Wagner said Friday, five days before he took the oath of office Wednesday. "I'm not taking their calls right now. I haven't even been sworn in yet."
From the passenger seat of his truck, he read a beguiling email aloud, sounding fascinated and amused before putting down his phone on the word "liquor."
Typically, he would be driving, but an assistant intervened on his multi-tasking and insisted he hire a driver, at least until he takes office and the post-election chaos slows. He's owned this big Chevy truck for less than a week, but has already affixed the NRA decal.
It'll be a state-funding-free vehicle, as Wagner has pledged he won't take the per diem, mileage or even the pension he could claim as a member of the state Senate.
"There's no one like me, really," he said Friday. "I can't be bought or influenced. I'm not going to compromise my integrity. No backroom deals."
But now the lobbyists will call in earnest, as Wagner was sworn in Wednesday during a ceremony on the Senate floor.
The "millionaire trashman" of the pre-election mailers became Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township.
"We beat the Republican Party," Wagner said Friday. "But I'm not somebody who's now going to get them in a head lock and start rubbing it in. That said, I'm going to be cautious. It's time to start building some respect. Just because we won doesn't mean they have to respect me. And I would like to find other people in Harrisburg that I can respect."
'Outsider' in Harrisburg: Energetic and tenacious, Wagner said he'll be a transparent senator who maintains an "outsider" reputation while working with "anyone" willing to accomplish something.
"I was labeled a tea party guy, and the perception is that I'm going to Harrisburg to be disruptive," Wagner said. "No. I ask questions, and when you start asking people questions, it makes them nervous. And I'm a lifelong Republican. There is no 'tea party' party."
Wagner grew up on a York Township horse farm, a "terrible" student who rushed home to muck stalls and bale hay so he could make money, he said.
He dropped out of college and started a ski shop in Gaithersburg, Md., when he was 20. Buying rental properties, he began to build a portfolio that today includes Penn Waste trash, KBS Trucking, an insurance group in the Cayman Islands, interests in a waste company in northeast Lancaster and one in Fort Wayne, Ind., a hotel, an industrial engine business in South Carolina and a Baltimore helicopter company.
"He doesn't sleep," said Penn Waste marketing director Amanda Davidson, who is also Wagner's campaign manager. "He sends me emails at 3 a.m. with ideas he got from an infomercial."
But Wagner's direct, change-embracing nature could be challenged in the Senate, where progress moves at a pace analysts describe as "glacial." Few things frustrate Wagner as much as "sitting around," he said.
"I'm not a meeting person," he said. "Ten people sitting in a room talking and nothing gets done."
At Penn Waste, he manages by walking around the office and addressing issues as they arise. He eats lunch at the office because it costs him too much time to leave. Work is like his full-time hobby, he said. He will not drop just anything to go play golf.
"I'm intense," he said, back in the truck on Friday. "I have a plan. A lot of people don't have goals and plans."
He unfolded the large three-page spreadsheet he uses as a calendar and held it before him.
"I'm like the pilot of a fighter jet, with 50 gauges in front of me ... and our lines of credit are the fuel."
His plan: The most expensive campaign ever run in York, Wagner's unprecedented special election write-in win highlighted a growing gulf between the mainstream GOP and conservative independents.
The party resisted Wagner more eagerly than any Democrat over the last couple of decades, though Wagner's agenda appears to be standard conservative business politics.
He's not a religious person, and social issues aren't most important to him, he said. While pro-life, he thinks the state's Abortion Control Act is doing its job and he has no desire to change the law, he said.
He doesn't care if gays want to get married, but he doesn't want churches told they have to do anything that goes against their beliefs, he said.
Business reforms are the meat of his policy plan, including reducing regulation and reforming workers' compensation to prevent fraud so business owners can save money on complaints, he said.
For example, a single lawsuit cost him $194,000 after a worker — who later turned out to be a former semi-professional boxer — said he hurt his shoulder about a week after being on Penn Waste's payroll, Wagner said.
While the plan could hit a snag with workers' rights advocates, Wagner said he would like the state to create a database for would-be employers to search an applicant's name for previous injuries.
Wagner said he realizes most of his agenda would make his own businesses more profitable, and that's his intention; he said he's one of thousands of business owners who would benefit and, as a result, employees and constituents would also benefit.
"If I don't have an expense I shouldn't have, I can make more profit, pay more taxes, invest more in wages and benefits, and maybe buy more equipment," he said. "That's a win-win."
— Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.