Humble and graceful, first lady Frances Wolf is the epitome of public servitude. Harrisburg Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat with the first lady and discuss the upcoming Gubernatorial race, the obstacles facing Pennsylvania and her experiences from the last four years.
Q: What would you consider to be your biggest success these past four years?
A: One of the things that I am really really proud of is funding for education. Now at this point, that was one of the most important issues and one of the most important challenges Tom faced when he came to the job. Tom has reinstated almost all of the monies that were cut in the previous administration, which is a grand accomplishment.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle Pennsylvania faces?
A: Education. We are behind even as we go forward.
Q: How do we continue to make progress?
A: I think it’s just something that Tom and the legislature will just keep pressing and finding solutions to make sure that our children, from pre-K all the way through college, are not held back from the quality education they deserve and need, but what the rest of us, as citizens of the state require because we are all going to have the kinds of school like we want.
Q: Is there a topic driving the Gubernatorial race?
A: I don’t know that it’s a hot-button issue, but I think education is something that most citizens of Pennsylvania are concerned about. They’re concerned about the quality of the education, they’re concerned about affordable primary and secondary level education.
Q: Should Governor Wolf be re-elected, what do you plan to focus on in the next term?
A: At this point, I have my own work. So the time that I do participate with Tom and his team, I want to be effective, I want to be efficient, I want to do the best job I can and so, I’m looking for my marker from them. I would want to go out and reinforce initiatives that they are working on at any given time. I can be a spokesperson in a way that – to constituents – that they are not able to. That’s what I suspect I’ll be doing- Going to schools to promote the importance of pre-K funding, going to promote universal breakfasts in elementary and high schools because that is part of the budget- going out to promote funding for opioid addiction treatment. …I don’t want to have a parallel interest, which doesn't’t relate to what Tom and his team are working on. I want to do everything I can, in my way, to help them and bring attention to the issues closest to me.
Q: What is your most memorable moment/experience from your first term?
A: That’s a good one! I’d say there’s joy and there’s pain. The joy of going to pre-k schools, elementary schools and even high schools and having a chance to meet students. The hugs that you receive from these young kids, they’re just wonderful, and talking with the high school students about what their interest are, their plans – it’s really joyful and hopeful, there’s such prospects. But then, the parts that make you want to sob are the ones that are bringing attention to the opioid treatment centers. A lot of the people that are wanting that have been addicts themselves. …I’m also going around the state talking with groups of women and having coffee to talk about, 'What are your issues?' 'What is concerning you?' And over and over and over again, it’s education, health care, but particularly, opioid problems.
Q: Is there anything that you would do differently?
A: No, I wouldn't change anything. I think that from the beginning Tom and the legislators spent some time getting to know each other and that worked out some growing pains, but they’ve come to know each other, respect each other and work, I think, pretty well together. We’ve come to know quite a few of them quite well, and enjoy them as colleagues, as friends who can do things together and talk about the issues. I think at this point, I wouldn’t change anything.
Q: What do you want people to know about Gov. Wolf and yourself?
A: I’m proud of the plan that he put in place in the beginning, I’m proud of the extent to which he’s accomplished his goals, I’m excited about this next year and a half of what Tom and the legislature come to pass and I’m really proud that he was able to realize the majority of his goals. I’m really proud of that. He’s worked really hard. He’s enjoyed it and he’s having, I think, a really wonderful time. It’s been fun for both of us, getting to meet people. It’s been an incredibly education and an incredible privilege, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Q: Any parting words?
A: I think one of the things that he has committed to and it’s related to health care, is Senate Bill 3. The bill that is interested in putting extreme restrictions on abortion. If it ever makes it to his desk, Tom is going to veto it. He is committed to the idea and the practice that women have control over their own bodies. This bill that is being proposed is unconstitutional. Another thing that is important to him is anti discrimination. He is really trying to make Pennsylvania a fair place. So, he’s signed two executive orders protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Currently, even though you can marry in this state, you can still be fired from your job or evicted from your home, for being gay. He’s working to change that. I think just generally, Tom doesn't’t want to go backwards. In these past two and half years, there’s been a lot of progress, but I think Tom and his team want to work on this, to use this as a base, to go forward. This is his motivation.