Here at The Rambler, we had the unique and prestigious opportunity to connect with Joe Schember, the Democratic nominee who, upon an unprecedented return to politics, won the race to become Erie’s 48th mayor, over Republican challenger John Persinger. Schember’s election comes at a crucial time in the city of Erie’s future. With the recent city schools closing, property values dropping, General Electric relocating, and a drug epidemic flooding the city, the future looks dimmer and more uncertain each day. When we were able to sit down and talk to Mayor Schember, he didn’t dwell on the problems facing the community but rather focused on the support team he has assembled and the dedicated citizens he believes can turn the situation around.
Mayor Schember’s attitude towards Erie’s working class didn’t once waver during our time with him. He enthusiastically spoke of them being the key to resurrect the economy and our city. His unparalleled passion and commitment drives his revival efforts of the city. Schember also spoke on the election process as a whole and believes that the longstanding, tight-knit relationships he’s made within the community truly impacted the results. “People know me, trust me, and know what kind of person I am.” After serving more than 40 years at PNC Bank, a new path has been paved. I really felt called to run for mayor. My grandfather also served as mayor in the 1950s and had a deep impact on the person I am today, so it’s in my family history as well.”
Despite the struggles that have recently plagued the city prior to his election, Schember has remained positive. “For some reason, I feel like people tend to look at the glass as being half empty, not half full. It’s a shame because we really take living here for granted and truly have something special.”
A comprehensive plan is being put into place by Schember and his team to garner more prosperity to an area that’s been lacking it. With so much to offer a community, it’s difficult to imagine a city in such economic and social turmoil as Erie is. When asked what he believes is the biggest problem in the city today, Schember’s answer was quick and deliberate: “family-sustaining jobs.”
Although the trademarked, high volume manufacturing jobs are no more, the new mayor envisions a brighter, more innovative future. “I see more high tech jobs emerging along with much more opportunity.” The hope is that more students from Erie universities choose to pursue successful careers here, and don’t just bolt for the door upon graduation.
Mayor Schember also talked very highly of the value that Presque Isle State Park holds. “It’s definitely Erie’s greatest selling point. It gets about 1,000,000 more visitors yearly than Yellowstone National Park.” It is truly a treasure buried within the Erie community. Plans also include expanding development of the Bayfront (thanks to a $30 million grant from the state), further development of the downtown area (with the help of $25 million from the EDDC), and even moving the Bayfront Highway underneath State Street.
Erie Refocused is the 10 year plan put in place by Schember and his team. “I think people will start seeing results in year one, but it will take time. We have a lot of great, promising things in the works right now.”
The mayor also stressed the importance of youth involvement in community issues. “It’s extremely important for young people to get involved. Our plans rely on the public being active and remaining involved.” Schember’s efforts to improve the current state of the city has not gone unnoticed. The community recognizes him as an experienced, inspiring, and hopeful leader who sees the sky as the limit.
Thanks again to Mayor Schember for sharing his take on the future of our promising city!