Blazing the Trail, Part 4

July 15, 2016

State Senator Pat Vance, 31st District

by Jill Gleeson, Photography by Paul Vasiliades and Michelle Yinger

It’s hard to believe, but come the end of this term, Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Vance will no longer grace the halls of the State Capitol. One of the midstate’s longest-serving legislators, Vance, a Republican, spent 14 years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives before her election to the Chamber in 2004. In her time in office, she has authored 38 laws. Among the legislation she is most proud of is the bill that stopped insurance companies from refusing to cover victims of domestic violence simply because they had been abused.

Now 80, but with a youthful vigor that belies her years, Vance is finding the idea of retirement from government bittersweet.

“Intellectually and physically, I feel fine, but numerically, I’m old,” she explains with a chuckle. “So it’s probably time. It’s been a fulfilling career. It’s been challenging every day, and I can’t think of a more satisfying way to live your life than to be challenged every day.”

Vance, whose 31st Senatorial District ranges over parts of York and Cumberland counties, began her professional life as a nurse at Harrisburg Hospital.

In 1977, she was elected Cumberland County Recorder of Deeds, becoming the first woman to win office in that county.

“Perhaps being a woman made me work harder,” Vance acknowledges. “Because all of us – particularly those elected when being a woman legislator was a rarity – always felt the need to do better than, not just as well as, men.”

As she prepares to say goodbye to her constituents in January, Vance is hoping other women will step forward to help guide the state.

“But it can be very difficult,” she cautions. “You have to be really tough. I think I’d say to women, first of all, prepare yourself to be able to compete financially and intellectually and have some kind of background. Start at the local level, that’s really needed. It’s all about helping people – at least that’s what it should be.”

This article appears in the July 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine