The LuLac Edition #857, June 24th, 2009
PHOTO INDEX: A PROMOTIONAL PHOTO FROM AN ARGENTINA TRAVEL BROCHURE AND THE LATE PITTSTON MAYOR ROBERT LOFTUS SENIOR, CIRCA 2007.
Robert Loftus died Monday. Loftus is the last in a long line of political lions in the Democratic party that is passing from the political scene. Loftus was first elected Mayor in 1961 touting his experience as a businessman as well as a World War II veteran. His two decade long tenure saw virtually little tax increases in Pittston. Loftus also departmentalized the city with separate areas of responsibilities centered on streets, parks and recreation and community development. As Mayor of a third class small city with a declining business base, Loftus did the best he could in making certain the city was safe as well as making incremental steps in redevelopment. Through his terms, the downtown business district was chipped away by changing times in retail and industrial commerce. Loftus was known as a Mayor who communicated with his residents even if you did not always agree with his opinions. After suffering a heart attack in mid life, Loftus was fond of walking through Pittston City and through the borough of West Pittston with long time friend Nick Mauriello. The Mayor was doing cardio rehab before it become a mainstay in health care.
Loftus started a successful insurance business and also served on the Board of Directors and became Vice President of the First National Bank of Pittston. He served as Chairman of the Workmen’s Insurance Fund of PA for several years. He was also very active in the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Greater Pittston. In that role, Loftus was almost always on the dais at the old Mayfair Supper Club rubbing elbows with political all stars like Hubert Humphrey, Henry Jackson and Warren Magnunsen.
Loftus was also best known for his involvement at the leadership levels of the local Democratic party. As one who was elected in 1961 before the emergence of the Democratic party in the county, Loftus was a proponent of adhering to the strict party line. No ticket splitting for this guy! After the death of Dr. John Dorris after Christmas in 1967, Loftus was named County Democatic Chair as a compromise candidate. Even under Dr. Dorris, the party was split between the Slattery wing (the late Mayor Frank Slattery) and the Martin L. Murray camp. When Slattery lost a bid in the Democratic Judicial primary of 1967, many observers thought the rift would be healed. But upon taking office as Commissioners in 1967, the Crossin-Wideman team split almost immediately with Wideman teaming up with GOP minority commissioner Ethel Price to deny Crossin the chairmanship. The party was then split into two camps, the Crossin-Courthouse crowd and the Murray-committeeman group. Loftus was named chair because he could negotiate with both teams. Loftus felt if you were a Democrat, you ran as one. Through subsequent terms of 1971 and 1975, he made sure the dueling commissioners Crossin and Wideman ran as a team every time. County Democrats eradicated all Republicans, save for the mandated positions of Jury Commissioner and Minority Commissioner out from under the dome. He did not tolerate any Democrat going off the reservation. When Tom Lehman opposed Frank O’Connell (then a state Representative) for the 20th District State Senate seat, Loftus kept an eagle eye on the race. Knowing that O’Connell had many friend in the Democratic party, Loftus did not want any of his leaders or committeemen to openly support the GOP candidate. “We don’t want people getting independent on us” he would say with a glare that telegraphed that he meant business. Loftus, being the fiscal conservative was tight with a buck too when it came to party affairs. If the race looked like a loser, Loftus would not support it with county Democratic money or foot soldiers. Loftus retired as Mayor and was succeeded by Councilman Thomas Walsh. As party chair, he was replaced by longtime Treasurer and sidekick, Controller Joseph Tirpak. Loftus is part of a fast dying breed of “The Greatest Generation” who took their talents and guile into the world of politics. While many on the political scene today know nothing of the man, he was instrumental in building and maintain the dominance, for better or worse, of the County Democratic party.
South Carolina Mark Sanford ‘fessed up as to his whereabouts on Father’s Day weekend. Remember gang, when in doubt, know it’s always a woman. Seems the Guv has been having a fling with a woman in Argentina. Two practical tips here from “Womanizing 101”. 1. Never mess with your family’s holidays, Jeez, especially Father’s Day, I mean that’s just poor form. 2. Locate a gal preferably in your own country. A 30 mile radius of your house is even better.
Man oh man, any type of Home Rule is starting to look better. This recent fiasco with the county time sheets and row officers partially vindicates Sheriff Mike Savokinas when he was trying to explain his deputy sheriff’s vacation schedule. But it indicts all of the other row offices and the current form of county government as irreparably broken and in need of a major overhaul.