Titusville has seen the end of a political era, as Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R-15) in the Queen city was closed Dec. 18.
The office, which was located at 127 West Spring St., has been a part of Titusville since 1989, when it was opened by former Rep. John Peterson. Due to an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year, the state’s congressional districts were redrawn in an effort to reduce gerrymandering. This redrawing resulted in Thompson losing coverage of Titusville as the city was absorbed into Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-16) district.
Thompson’s District Director Peter Winkler said that members of congress are not allowed by federal law to maintain an office outside of their district, necessitating the Titusville location’s closure.
As a sort of regional replacement, Thompson opened an office in Oil City on Jan. 3.
“We lost whatever we had of Crawford County, so we had to move to Venango County,” Office Manager Barbara Ives said.
Ives was a long-time employee of the office, having worked there when it was under Peterson.
According to Kelly’s director of communications, Tom Qualtere, the congressman is planning to maintain his current regional offices, located in Butler, Sharon and Erie, which is the closest location to Titusville. Qualtere said Kelly’s staff will “make every accommodation possible to the people of Titusville.”
Winkler said that there is no mechanism by which a congressman could transfer an office to another representative, and said that there is often a limited budget for maintaining a regional office space.
“You generally can’t afford more than two or three offices,” Winkler said. “So you have to pick what geographically makes sense so you can get to places the quickest.”
Kelly currently maintains regional offices in Erie, Butler and Sharon, alongside his Washington, D.C. location.
The former office was first opened in 1989 by Peterson. The representative had an office nearby located at 115 West Spring St., but decided to move for preservation reasons.
According to Winkler, Peterson, a Titusville native, was interested in preserving a mural on the ceiling at the building which would house the office. As the landlords were currently having issues with tenants, Peterson switched over to help keep the building, and thus the mural, around. The short distance from the former office also made the move easy.
“One of the rationales of moving there [was that] we just had to carry things across the alley,” Peterson said.
Though there were many redistricting periods over Peterson’s tenure in Congress, which ran from 1997 to 2009, he lobbied hard to always keep Titusville in his district out of love for the office and his home city. This led to the relatively odd situation of Titusville being the only part of Crawford County not in the same district.
When Peterson retired, Thompson took his seat in Congress and kept the office around until its forced closure.
“It’s been a great office for us, and I think John and [Glenn Thompson] have taken a lot of pride for that office,” he said.
Part of the office’s function was to assist residents in the area with social security issues. According to Winkler, Ives sometimes had more than 200 cases, and he estimated she “made a difference” for about 3,000 to 4,000 people while at that office.
It was this service Ives, who lives in Titusville, provided that pushed Thompson to open his new office in a relatively close location.
“One of the congressman’s priorities was to keep her as a caseworker,” Winkler said. “Since we couldn’t keep the Titusville office, he spent a lot of time looking for a place that would be an easy commute for her.”
According to Renee Gamela, Thompson’s press secretary, the congressman will be announcing the opening of more new offices in the near future.
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