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This Week’s LION: The Private Public Servant – Tom Marino

Tom Marino, U.S. Representative of the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, officially resigned from Congress on January 23, 2019. His formal press release did not explain this action, although in a later statement he commented that he was taking a job in the public sector. Given the current political climate, I can say with full

Tom Marino, U.S. Representative of the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, officially resigned from Congress on January 23, 2019. His formal press release did not explain this action, although in a later statement he commented that he was taking a job in the public sector. Given the current political climate, I can say with full assurance that if the reason for his resignation was anything related to something illegal, unethical, or immoral — we would have heard of it from the scandal mongers by now. The absence of any substance and not just empty speculation along those lines would lead me to believe that his reason for resigning so soon after his recent election means that there was something very wrong that is very personal.

The fact that Tom Marino does not wish to share this information fits his entire tenure in public office. Almost all politicians, especially those in public office at a state and national level, are generally gregarious, outgoing, people-persons. Tom is not like that. He is friendly and engaging, but in many ways, he comes across as a regular guy who just happens to hold a high public office. Like most of us, he is a private person.

I got to know Tom Marino very early in his work career. I worked at the Stroehmann Brothers Bread Factory on Washington Blvd. in Williamsport during the summers of 1971 through 1974. Working the graveyard 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift was grueling, but paid extremely well, which I needed badly for college tuition. Tom was one of the two supervisors who worked at the plant in those very early morning hours, and even though we were almost identical in age, barely past our teens, I found myself looking up to him for his work ethic and problem-solving abilities.

I got the job because I was dating the daughter of Bill Steward, who was the General Production Manager for Stroehmann Brothers at the time. (I guess he didn’t want his daughter dating a bum). I eventually married that wonderful daughter of his, and through the ensuing years had the privilege of hearing my father-in-law tell many stories of his work with Stroehmann’s. One of them had to do with a special team of four young men that he mentored who went with him all over the Eastern United States when there was trouble-shooting needed at one of the Stroehmann plants. I was not surprised that one of those young men that Bill was proud of was my old foreman, Tom Marino.

One story he loved to tell was the time that Tom walked into his office to resign. Tom had somehow managed to work his way through college while rising through the bread baking ranks, and Bill even thought it possible that this young man could possibly take his place when he retired. But instead, Tom came in to tell his boss that he appreciated all Bill had done for him but he decided he wanted to become a lawyer. Bill rose up from his desk, walked over to him and shook his hand and told Tom that he wished him the best.

Tom did go to law school and become a lawyer, and in 2002, at the age of 40, became District Attorney for Lycoming County. In November of 2010, he was elected to succeed Chris Carney as a member of the U.S. House of Representative in what was then the 10th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. Tom Marino’s most recent election in November of last year was his fifth election to Congress.

In these past eight years, Tom Marino worked quietly on issues that were important to area residents but did not make great splashes of headlines, with one notable exception. On August 1, 2014, there was an event which ABC News described, “In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor, taking offense at comments by the Pennsylvania Republican during debate on the border funding bill Friday night.” Tom got his fifteen minutes of national fame for that finger-wagging rebuke from Nasty Nancy, but even then did not try to milk it for more than it was worth.

Tom Marino always stood out to me by not standing out. At the dedication ceremony of the Bases Loaded Statues on Market and Third Streets in Williamsport in August of 2017, there was a ‘who’s who’ of elected officials all basking in the glow of this memorable event. I saw Tom standing far in the back of the crowd, dressed very casually. I went up to him and asked why he was with us hoi-polloi and not up front with the rest of the dignitaries. He smiled and said he was more comfortable where he was.

It did not surprise me. Just a year and a half before, in February of 2016, Bill Steward died at the age of 91. He had been in ailing health for years, and Tom and his wife Edie had visited Bill several times at his home to see how he was doing. The presence of a U.S. Congressman at a funeral in little Montgomery would be a big deal, and Tom was concerned about that. At the church funeral service, he reluctantly came forward and almost apologized for being there because he did not want to draw attention away from Bill’s life, but deeply wanted to acknowledge his debt to this fine man. Afterward, very few besides family went to the gravesite service, but Tom went and stood afar off. He was paying his own silent tribute — a private one.

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