Paper boy, golf club cleaner, supermarket cashier: Pa. lawmakers remember their first jobs

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Delivering newspapers on his bike when he was 9 years old was Republican gubernatorial nominee and Franklin County state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s first foray in the world of work.

Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland County, got fired from his first job as a golf club cleaner because the course employees found out he was only 11 years old. He was rehired the next year when he met the course’s minimum age for employees, which was 12.

Riding his bike to work, state Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester County, delivered meat for a local butcher on Saturday mornings at age 12.

At 15, Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-Monroe County, kept watch over swimmers as a lifeguard at a neighborhood pool. ⁦

Each of these state legislators told the story of their first job to Athan Koutsiouroumbas, a lobbyist in Harrisburg who challenged himself to meet all 252 House and Senate members by June 30 and find out what their first jobs were.

If he accomplishes his goal, Koutsiouroumbas, a managing director at Long, Nyquist & Associates, pledges to donate $1,000 to a charity that advocates for students to consider skilled labor jobs, namely the Mike Rowe Works Foundation.

He also decided he would double his donation if he reaches 20,000 Twitter followers in the process although as of Friday, that appeared to be a long shot since his following hadn’t hit 7,600 yet.

“These are people in positions of power, and they all had to start somewhere,” Koutsiouroumbas said.

He soon learned from his quest that the first jobs lawmakers held ran the gamut from farm field to shopping mall.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, worked as cashier at a Burger King. Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny County, still remembers that the price of milk was $2.39 for a gallon during her first job as a Super Duper supermarket clerk in high school. The store didn’t have a scanner, so she had to manually enter the items in the register.

Early dismissals from her high school allowed Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, to work as a law office secretary in her teens. At 16, Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-Allegheny County, worked at the American Eagle clothing store in Homestead. Rep. Bob Brooks, R-Westmoreland County, said he made $1.60 an hour at his first job unloading tomato trucks.

Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton County, first went to work in the greenhouse of her family’s nursery business. Rep. Leanne Kruger, D-Delaware County, was a camp counselor. Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, bussed tables at the Grantville Holiday Inn. Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-Lackawanna, also worked in the restaurant business, only he was tasked as a dishwasher.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, got his start baling hay. So did Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Dauphin County, who also made some money picking strawberries at the ripe young age of 12. Rep. Barry Jozwiak, R-Berks County, set up bowling pins at a bowling alley. Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, filed paperwork at a family friend’s office.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie County, mowed lawns. Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne County, waited tables at Kmart. And Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County, worked as a dietary aide at a nursing home.

These are some of more than 100 legislators who have told Koutsiouroumbas about their first jobs since he started on June 6, according to his Twitter feed. He said he’s confident he can reach all the lawmakers by his deadline at the end of the month with both the House and Senate scheduled to be in session this week.

“I was just interested to see what everybody’s first job was,” he said. “A lot of people have poor opinions of public officials and I thought that this was a way to show that a lot of public officials in Pennsylvania are just like everybody else.”

Koutsiouroumbas, whose first job was folding boxes at his dad’s pizza shop when he was in fourth grade, said he has a lot of free time as a lobbyist in June and wanted to do something productive in between meetings.

With the number of students attending college expected to rise in the next decade, he said that he would like to see more students weigh the option of going into the trades.

Jori Houck, of the Association for Career and Technical Education, wrote in an email that investing in career and technical education (CTE) is essential to support Pennsylvania’s workers in coming years.

Workforce shortages have expanded the need for “work-based learning experiences,” said Houck.

“It is also important to note that greater investment is needed at both state and federal levels to scale CTE programs across Pennsylvania to ensure that all learners, including historically underserved learners, have access to high-quality CTE programs in high-skill, high-wage and in-demand career fields.”

There are roughly 80 career and technical education centers statewide that offer Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved programs to students, according to the agency’s website. Statistics from the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analytics show that many trade jobs, such as construction laborers, welders and carpenters, will experience employment growth in the next few years.

“College is a good option for some, but it’s not the best option for everybody,” Koutsiouroumbas said.

He chose to pledge the donation to Mike Rowe Works Foundation because he is a fan of Mike Rowe, known as the television host for the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs,” and he likes that the star advocates for trades careers.

Attempts to reach the Mike Rowe Works Foundation were unsuccessful.

“I guess the biggest message I want to communicate is that everybody starts somewhere,” Koutsiouroumbas said. “And that in our culture, it’s important to emphasize the dignity of work, regardless of what the job is, and I feel like that in some places that’s being lost.”

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