Harlan Shober’s resume is quite varied:
A veteran of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, he spent 32 years working for telecommunications giant AT&T; he has been a home builder, and he’s had a real estate license.
Interspersed with these careers, he’s served as a member of Chartiers-Houston School Board, an unpaid position, and Chartiers Township supervisor, which carries a stipend of about $2,500 per year. He’s been part of the pastoral nominating committee at his church, First United Presbyterian of Houston.
And for the past eight years, he’s been a Washington County commissioner, which last year carried a salary of $93,944.
The annual median household income in Washington County is $59,309, according to the Data USA website.
“So much of what we do here is done by committee,” Shober said. “We have three commissioners so you don’t talk too much about what you do personally,” he said as December drew to a close. He had already packed up his personal belongings, and the boxes stacked in the office were those of fellow Democratic Commissioner Larry Maggi, who was the second-highest votegetter for the first time in his five commission races, bested by Republican Diana Irey Vaughan.
Shober, 75, finished fourth in the balloting, losing out to Republican Nick Sherman, 40, of North Strabane Township, who made the cut by placing third.
Nov. 5 was a history-making night in Washington County politics. Except for a four-year period in the 1990s, Democrats have dominated the commissioners’ office since the New Deal era of the 1930s, named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs to wrest the United States from the Great Depression.
As he looked back on his eight years, Shober reflected on his work to alleviate flooding in the Chartiers Creek Valley, beginning a process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He also spoke of achieving a booking center, a phrase that might not mean much to the general public.
But it’s something police departments had been advocating literally for decades, and Shober spearheaded the effort to get local police back on streets patrolling their communities and answering citizens’ calls rather than driving hither and yon to have a prisoner arraigned.
“We need our law enforcement throughout Washington County,” he said. “Part of keeping our people safe is having police officers on the street. I’m not one who goes out and talks a lot about what we do.”
Leave it to Shober to find a silver lining in losing an election.
“I’m trying to be positive,” he said. “My vote count went up. I had 1,000 more votes than I had the last time. It’s a personal triumph for me.”
Shober won in 2015 by 35 votes over Republican Mike McCormick, but this time around, he lost by 2,300 votes to Sherman. He saw it coming early on election night. In communities Shober was carrying, he didn’t do so by large enough margins.
Had he won, his third term would have been his last. “I’d have been almost 80. Maybe people thought I was too old. Experience comes with your age,” said the father of four and the grandfather of an even dozen.
Both Commissioners Maggi and Irey Vaughan, at the final voting meeting of 2019, thanked him for his service to the county.
Sherman is scheduled to be take his oath of office this morning in the second of two ceremonies for various elected officials at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom No. 1.
Michel Legrand, who died a year ago this month, composed a song titled, “What are you doing the rest of your life?”
Posing that question to Shober resulted in this reply: “You go from busy to ‘What do I do next?’ I’m giving it a lot of thought. I’m not looking for a career. I’m looking for something I enjoy doing where I can still help people.
“I’m going to be busy the rest of my life. ... I’m always thinking about the future.”