Saylor
Saylor

Ever hear of the prominent Yorker Robert Spangler?

He left office when Prohibition was still in effect, in 1922, and that was the last time a York County resident was Speaker of the state House.

But a longtime local legislator's quest for a higher leadership post in the House of Representatives would end the decades-long dry spell broken only by his own earlier promotion.

Majority Whip Stan Saylor's 2010 election to his current post marked the first time in history any Yorker ever even held that office. As such, he is the highest-ranking Yorker in Pennsylvania government.

Now the Windsor Township Republican says he wants to climb, hoping for a chance at majority leader or Speaker of the House.

Saylor, repeatedly emphasizing his priorities are winning re-election in the 94th House District — he will face Democrat David Colon in November — and keeping the GOP majority in the House, said he's most seriously considering a move to majority leader. Speaker of the House Rep. Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County, announced his retirement, and roles will be shifting with November's expected vote by the House Republican Caucus.

Saylor said Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, is likely to seek the chamber's top position, Speaker of the House.

"Who knows what happens in politics, but at this time, I'm probably feeling more like majority leader," Saylor said.

The last Yorker to hold that position was Herbert Cohen, 1935-1938, according to House of Representatives Chief Clerk Anthony Frank Barbush.

Changing views: As majority whip, Saylor's job function has been essentially "assistant majority leader," Saylor said. He assists in running the House floor, scheduling legislation, rounding up votes, and leading the caucus on legislative debate when Turzai is absent.

Majority leaders plan the House voting calendar and promote the legislative agenda, leading debate and presenting the caucus' position on issues. The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer, without whom session can't be held, overseeing debate.

Saylor said he suspects there are a couple of reasons York hasn't featured prominently in the legislative leadership lineup, reasons from both within and outside its boundaries.

From inside, "I think sometimes we in York County felt that we didn't need the state of PA, and we would solve our problems ourselves," Saylor said.

York legislators were previously more isolated and independent, but that has shifted over the past several decades as the county grows and changes and becomes more of a leader statewide, he said. Local legislators are now more interested in what's happening in the state and are collaborating more with lawmakers from other counties to develop solutions to statewide issues, he said.

From the outside, York was historically viewed as a rural county, but that perception changes as the county grows and is seen as more of a stakeholder in statewide issues, Saylor said.

Saylor was first elected to the House in 1992.

York influence: The past four years as majority whip have given him an opportunity to exercise influence and steer debate, guaranteeing that "our conservative values of central PA are represented by my viewpoints," Saylor said.

"As I have demonstrated in York County and in my role as majority whip, I do listen to people," he said. "We need to make sure from the viewpoint of York County that some of the things we think are important and critical move forward."

But Saylor's Capitol climb could be overshadowed by Mount Wolf businessman Tom Wolf, who won all 67 counties in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor and who analysts have said appears to have nearly unstoppable momentum against incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett heading into November.

Saylor said he'll be cheering for Corbett, but he wouldn't mind working with another Yorker in the governor's mansion.

"I have worked with both Toms," Saylor said. "I get along well with Gov. Corbett and I work well and get along with Tom Wolf. While I'm a conservative Republican, I work across the aisle to get problems solved. The number one priority is to govern, to move forward, not constant bickering."

Wolf would be only the second Yorker to be governor, following York Township's George Leader, who left office in 1959.

For those who are digging the history, Wolf would (barring a shave) be the first Pennsylvania governor to have a beard since Samuel W. Pennypacker, who served from 1903 to 1907.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.