Schroder leaving House for a new career in health care

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State Rep. Curt Schroder is leaving office Sunday.

Change comes hard to Harrisburg.

Republican Rep. Curt Schroder, of Chester County, who will quit the state House after 17-plus years on Sunday, knew that intuitively when he arrived at the Capitol in January 1995.

But it's a lesson that has been drummed in, time and again.

Lincoln said he'd gotten his schooling "by littles." That's how reform has come to the House, even after the scandal of Bonusgate and the public uproar over a 2005 legislative pay raise enacted late at night, when much of the public literally was sleeping.

"It is very difficult in this state - or maybe it's just the nature of state government - to get sweeping change at any one time," Schroder, with a trim mustache, said from behind his desk at his district office in Exton.

Schroder, who voted for the pay raise but later called it a mistake, served on a 2007 reform commission that helped make changes to House rules - for one thing, banning votes after 11 p.m.

On a more substantive level, legislators enacted changes to make it easier for the public to gain access to public records and to learn who is lobbying their elected representatives on behalf of special interests.

But more expansive measures, such as limiting the size of campaign contributions, have stalled.

"What success there has been - it has been incremental," Schroder said. "We have the big fight, get a little bit, and regroup for the next round a couple of years later."

"I wish we could have accomplished more," he said.

Known as a hard worker - he takes pride in measures to curb medical-malpractice costs for doctors and to limit the liability of "deep pocket" defendants in certain legal judgments - Schroder said he decided not to run for a 10th term because he felt he had reached the limit of what he could accomplish.

He was 50, he said, and realized that the window of opportunity for taking on a new career was closing. He had hoped to be elected to Congress in 2010. He now has taken a job as a senior vice president and regional executive of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council.

The group represents the interests of 58 hospitals and other health-care institutions in the Philadelphia area. He said he would register as a lobbyist but does not expect to spend much time talking to old colleagues in Harrisburg.

Schroder is known as one of the more conservative House members from the Philadelphia region. Former Rep. Sam Rohrer, a favorite of many antitax activists, said of him: "He was known for not being willing to compromise on what he believed, and that's a good thing to be saying about somebody in elected office."

But on his way out of the Capitol door, Schroder got kind words from two Democrats with whom he worked closely.

Former Rep. Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, who served on the House reform commission, said: "There were times when we would do battle on the House floor, but I always found, with Curt, it was never personal."

Schroder, as chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, has been on opposite sides from Rep. Rosita Youngblood, the committee's Democratic leader.

Youngblood is fighting Schroder's efforts to put up for statewide bidding a casino license now assigned to Philadelphia. A House vote could come within the week, Schroder said.

Despite their differences, Youngblood said, they have worked cooperatively on committee issues. "I respect him tremendously," she said.

Schroder has a temper. One House staffer recalled him storming off the House floor in an angry moment.

"I'll admit I have gotten passionate - maybe a little too passionate at one time or the other," he said. "I happen to think that passion is not a bad thing if used the right way."

The Chester County that Schroder has long represented has changed much.

"Population has exploded," he said. The economic downturn may not have hit the affluent county as much as some other areas of the state, he said, but Chester County has poor areas, too.

The recession, he said, wiped out the jobs of a whole range of middle managers - he knows one with a Ph.D. - who might never return to past expectations of success.

In political matters, Chester County Republicans have a long history of orderly transitions when it comes time to pass on an elected post.

Schroder's former office manager, Becky Corbin, was nominated in Tuesday's GOP primary to be his successor. In the strongly Republican 155th District, she is likely to win in November.

The incumbent said he's ready to move on.

"I figure it's time to allow someone else to come and try to put their stamp on the job."

 


Contact Tom Infield

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