New lawmaker Evankovich works to perfect his juggling act
While handling the obligations of family, work, farming and campaigning, Eli Evankovich became a pretty good juggler this summer. And, if anything, winning a term in the state House of Representatives has added a few more balls for the 27-year-old Republican to keep in the air.
Earlier this month, Evankovich unseated five-term incumbent Democrat John Pallone to serve the 54th District.
Since the Nov. 2 election, life has been a whirlwind for Evankovich, a financial analyst for U.S. Steel. He's traveled to Harrisburg to meet with party officials and has been inundated with phone calls -- all while juggling family, his job and working on the Murrysville cattle farm he tends with his father. That hasn't left much free time, which is a sacrifice he and his wife expected when he decided to run for office last year.
"We know we put ourselves in a very uncomfortable position and we've gotten used to that where things are up and down," Evankovich said. "My wife has been an absolutely brilliant rock in this process. We continue to make decisions one step at a time, together."
Since the election, Evankovich has spoken with local government leaders to start preparing for his two-year term. One of the first matters of business is finding new office locations. While Pallone had local offices in Export and Arnold, Evankovich hopes to have bases in Murrysville and New Kensington.
"We want to do what will best suit the district," Evankovich said.
To further prepare for the transition, he said he hopes to meet with his predecessor to find out which issues Pallone's office was working on.
Not everything from Pallone's term will carry over, however. While Pallone was a member of the House education, finance and tourism and recreational development committees, Evankovich doesn't know which committees he will sit on.
In the state House of Representatives, committee assignments are made based on seniority. As one of 28 freshman representatives, Evankovich doesn't have much say on what assignments he receives.
However, he plans to talk with officials about where his talents can best be used.
"I am somebody who really likes to research what they are stepping into," Evankovich said. "I'm planning to sit down with leadership and see what I can bring to the table and ask to be placed somewhere where I can be the most effective."
Though new to the House, Evankovich already has friends in office. He counts Delmont Rep. Tim Krieger, Mt. Pleasant Rep. Mike Reese, Indiana County Rep. Dave Reed, and newly elected Penn Township Rep. George Dunbar among his political allies in Harrisburg.
Evankovich isn't just one of the new guys on the block -- he also will be among the youngest serving in the House. But age is different from maturity, and a difference in age means a difference in perspective, said Evankovich, who will be 28 next month.
"The old way of doing business certainly hasn't helped us today," he said. "I was elected based on the message that we need to do better in our state and make it a more competitive place so that people can stay here and grow here."