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County Hall Corner: Joe Hamm – Quite a Man

Ten years ago, I was investigating joint municipal police forces as a township supervisor and went to Jersey Shore hoping to get some information. I met Joe Hamm, who was the borough manager and hoped to catch fifteen minutes of his time. Joe spent over an hour answering questions for no reason other than wanting to help me. Today he is PA State Representative Joe Hamm, and he is not just the same man — he is better. His commitment to his constituents at home and work in Harrisburg has made him one of the highest respected elected officials in the state.

This is not just my opinion. The American Conservation Union rate every legislator in the House and Senate in all 50 states every year. This is a blind rating; the elected officials do not know which pieces of legislation that ACU chooses in their evaluation. Joe Hamm ranked #1 in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate. This means that in the entire General Assembly of 50 Senators and 203 Representatives, Joe Hamm is the most conservative of them all.

And beyond that, Joe also presented a piece of legislation, Act 72 of 2022, which got signed into law during his first term. This literally never happens. Rookie Representatives are to be seen and not heard in Harrisburg. But for Joe Hamm, the EMS Bill he sponsored could not wait.

Volunteer fire companies were being required to have two EMTs answering calls when under COVID in 2020-21; it had been changed to one qualified driver and one EMT due to the lack of available personnel. During that time, not a single incident was recorded due to one EMT. There was no justification for changing, and Joe’s legislation locked it into law.

But it is out of his Montoursville office that Joe and his right-hand man, Erik Houser, do the nitty-gritty work of helping their constituents.

All 203 State Representatives have the same number of constituents, but the geographical territories are widely different. Hamm’s district is currently the 5th largest territory in the state, but in December, it will be the 4th largest, 1,543 square miles. By way of comparison, the entire state of Rhode Island is 1,214 miles.

Throughout that territory are dozens of municipalities, and Joe Hamm wants them to know that he is there for them, in fact, fighting for them. His goal is to help the local people as he did back as a borough manager. He believes in a local government touch at the state level. Thus, Joe is everywhere in the county — township meetings, police stations, chamber events, fire companies, farm bureau meetings, conservation district meetings, church celebrations, community events such as local carnivals, and the larger events such as the Lycoming County Fair, Jersey Shore Town Meeting, etc. In these past 21 months of office of his first term, it seems that Joe Hamm was everywhere.

In that time, Joe has had hundreds of people come across his path asking for some intervention, and no one gets turned away. Harrisburg bureaucrats get away with neglecting their responsibilities because they do not get called out on it. Joe Hamm finds a way to navigate the complexities of endless departments and officials to get to the right person who can solve the problems.

When asked if there was one in particular, both Joe and Erik quickly acknowledged a constituent that they will never forget. A man in Bastress Township had his property severely damaged due to stormwater coming off a state roadway. He contacted PennDOT, and they said they would look into it. That was SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO! The man had the same damage happen again and again and again in the following years, finally even taking out the foundation of his garage. For all those years, he continually tried to get PennDOT to look at the problem, but they did not even send anyone to look at the damage.

The man presented his dilemma to Joe Hamm, and he and Erik went to see the problem for themselves. Joe took pictures, met residents, and was ready to go to war. He immediately contacted PennDOT, and they politely told him that they would look into it in two weeks. Joe quickly corrected the official and told them that they would get on this problem ASAP because this poor man had no sidewalk, no foundation in his garage, and five tons of debris throughout his property because of this defective roadway; and further, this man had been waiting seventeen years for a response! The message got through. PennDOT fixed the road, and the resident was made whole because of Joe Hamm’s advocacy on his behalf.

Joe Hamm realizes that it may cost him relationships and contacts by not following the politically correct pathway, but his compass is focused on doing the right thing. His Christian faith holds him up as he prays daily for the strength to lean on the Lord for guidance and strength.

The citizens of the 84th Legislative District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives should themselves whisper a prayer to the Almighty for giving them such a man of wisdom, grit, and integrity as their local state official. He does not just represent them but fights for them. And he knows how to make his punches count.