State Representative
Erie, Pennsylvania

Politics is about serving others Jay Breneman 2017-12-26T06:00:00-05:00 http://www.jaybreneman.org/news-and-releases/politics-is-about-serving-others

This article was written by Jay Breneman and originally published on GoErie.com on December 26th, 2017.

I said goodbye to my platoon in 2009, as a 26-year-old staff sergeant (E-6), after having served in the Army for six and a half years. It was a bittersweet moment after having committed so much of my young adult life to national service. I was leaving for a new journey full of unknowns.

I’m one of those people who called the recruiter shortly after 9/11 and purposefully requested assignment to the most frequently deployed Army units so I could serve our country in war, eventually being deployed twice to Iraq.

Yet, in spite of my service, I desired more. The money didn’t interest me, nor did the promise of greater promotions. At the time, I was leaving behind a successful career in the military because I wanted to work in a field where I could more directly serve those here at home. It was a promise I made to myself during my last deployment to Iraq.

A few weeks after my honorable discharge, I entered Mercyhurst University to become a social worker. Three years later, I had earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, completed two internships and a prestigious fellowship, worked at the Council of Governments, volunteered often, and served in a leadership capacity at a veterans organization and my family’s church. I was eagerly looking for more ways to give back.

Throughout my community involvement — which often meant interfacing with various programs, nonprofits and public officials — I quickly learned that most good things in Erie happened in spite of local government, not because of it.

This is why I ran for public office in 2013; I wanted to change that paradigm.

I was told by some that I didn’t have a chance, and that I should work my way up through the party first, waiting until it was “my turn.” I ignored that advice and went on to win my Erie County Council seat by a landslide. I wasn’t well-known, I didn’t go to high school here, and I didn’t have an influential relative. But I was determined, I worked hard, and had a great team of supporters.

During my four years in office, I am proud of the collaborative and transformative work I have been able to help make happen: programs for youth, modernization of county government, greater transparency, stronger supports for veterans, a countywide radio system for first responders, tools in the fight against opioid addiction, resources to tackle blight, and advancing a community college, just to name a few.

In that time, I learned that a part-time legislator could indeed advance public discourse, strengthen policy proposals, and could—with the right timing, homework and hard work — advance changes to programs and policies in a way that challenged the status quo. This kind of work has taken precious time away from my family and friends, which is why I made sure that it wasn’t wasted by sitting on my hands or paying homage to backroom deals made long ago.

We are not called to be caretakers, we are challenged to be changemakers.

That’s the advice I have for all local elected officials: Don’t waste your time passively going with the flow. It’s not a job that’ll make you rich or famous, and it’s probably not the most fun-filled hobby, so you might as well make the most of it for the benefit of our community and the next generation.

Now I’m saying farewell to my staff and colleagues on County Council. I readily sacrificed an easily retainable seat on council because I saw the need for service and leadership on the fifth floor of City Hall. I wasn’t worried about keeping my position on County Council because I never considered it to be a job to hold until I turned (more) gray, but simply as my next opportunity to serve others.

Additionally, my non-political career in Erie has been both successful and rewarding. I started the veteran programs at Mercyhurst and Edinboro universities, taught college-level courses and have been published internationally, served on nonprofit boards, managed a senior health care center (LIFE Northwestern Pennsylvania) and serve as their director of outreach and governmental relations for a program that has now expanded to four counties. I love my job and I love serving others. I’m thankful that I have been able to achieve the goal I set for myself a decade ago in Iraq.

What matters most — and what I am most thankful for — is that I am blessed to have a wonderful family and I will now get to spend much more quality time with them. That is my biggest win of all.

It is for them, and for all of Erie’s families, that I will continue my mission to improve our neighborhoods and the lives of others, in whatever form that opportunity comes.

I’m now 35 years old and I don’t plan on being put out to pasture anytime soon. I’m still here, serving Erie. Serving you.

Politics is about serving others

Posted on December 26th, 2017 at 6:00 AM
Politics is about serving others

This article was written by Jay Breneman and originally published on GoErie.com on December 26th, 2017.

I said goodbye to my platoon in 2009, as a 26-year-old staff sergeant (E-6), after having served in the Army for six and a half years. It was a bittersweet moment after having committed so much of my young adult life to national service. I was leaving for a new journey full of unknowns.

I’m one of those people who called the recruiter shortly after 9/11 and purposefully requested assignment to the most frequently deployed Army units so I could serve our country in war, eventually being deployed twice to Iraq.

Yet, in spite of my service, I desired more. The money didn’t interest me, nor did the promise of greater promotions. At the time, I was leaving behind a successful career in the military because I wanted to work in a field where I could more directly serve those here at home. It was a promise I made to myself during my last deployment to Iraq.

A few weeks after my honorable discharge, I entered Mercyhurst University to become a social worker. Three years later, I had earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, completed two internships and a prestigious fellowship, worked at the Council of Governments, volunteered often, and served in a leadership capacity at a veterans organization and my family’s church. I was eagerly looking for more ways to give back.

Throughout my community involvement — which often meant interfacing with various programs, nonprofits and public officials — I quickly learned that most good things in Erie happened in spite of local government, not because of it.

This is why I ran for public office in 2013; I wanted to change that paradigm.

I was told by some that I didn’t have a chance, and that I should work my way up through the party first, waiting until it was “my turn.” I ignored that advice and went on to win my Erie County Council seat by a landslide. I wasn’t well-known, I didn’t go to high school here, and I didn’t have an influential relative. But I was determined, I worked hard, and had a great team of supporters.

During my four years in office, I am proud of the collaborative and transformative work I have been able to help make happen: programs for youth, modernization of county government, greater transparency, stronger supports for veterans, a countywide radio system for first responders, tools in the fight against opioid addiction, resources to tackle blight, and advancing a community college, just to name a few.

In that time, I learned that a part-time legislator could indeed advance public discourse, strengthen policy proposals, and could—with the right timing, homework and hard work — advance changes to programs and policies in a way that challenged the status quo. This kind of work has taken precious time away from my family and friends, which is why I made sure that it wasn’t wasted by sitting on my hands or paying homage to backroom deals made long ago.

We are not called to be caretakers, we are challenged to be changemakers.

That’s the advice I have for all local elected officials: Don’t waste your time passively going with the flow. It’s not a job that’ll make you rich or famous, and it’s probably not the most fun-filled hobby, so you might as well make the most of it for the benefit of our community and the next generation.

Now I’m saying farewell to my staff and colleagues on County Council. I readily sacrificed an easily retainable seat on council because I saw the need for service and leadership on the fifth floor of City Hall. I wasn’t worried about keeping my position on County Council because I never considered it to be a job to hold until I turned (more) gray, but simply as my next opportunity to serve others.

Additionally, my non-political career in Erie has been both successful and rewarding. I started the veteran programs at Mercyhurst and Edinboro universities, taught college-level courses and have been published internationally, served on nonprofit boards, managed a senior health care center (LIFE Northwestern Pennsylvania) and serve as their director of outreach and governmental relations for a program that has now expanded to four counties. I love my job and I love serving others. I’m thankful that I have been able to achieve the goal I set for myself a decade ago in Iraq.

What matters most — and what I am most thankful for — is that I am blessed to have a wonderful family and I will now get to spend much more quality time with them. That is my biggest win of all.

It is for them, and for all of Erie’s families, that I will continue my mission to improve our neighborhoods and the lives of others, in whatever form that opportunity comes.

I’m now 35 years old and I don’t plan on being put out to pasture anytime soon. I’m still here, serving Erie. Serving you.

« Return to News Archive