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George set to retire, but plans to remain active
Saturday, November 17, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
HOUTZDALE - Everyone in Progressland knows who Camille "Bud" George is, but do you really know him?
He was born Camille George on Dec. 23, 1927, the son of Jacob and Emily George of Houtzdale. He said his name was a French name, but his parents and none of his siblings ever called him Camille. "They all just called me Bud or Buddy," he said. "And that's how people know me today."
He quit high school in the 11th grade at 15½ years old and went into the Navy. He would have graduated in 1945 from Houtzdale High School. Earlier this year he was the main speaker at the Moshannon Valley graduation, and during that graduation, he was called up to receive an honorary diploma. "I had no idea they were going to do that," he said. "I was very surprised."
George said after he got out of the Navy he did get a GED from Chicago, but he never furthered his education. Around the time he got out of the Navy, his dad was running a service station, but the owner's family was going to run it, so his dad found land and built a service station in Houtzdale. The land was the site of a coal tipple; today it's the site of Jacob George Ford. His dad traveled as far as Ohio to get signers for the land and the building was constructed in 30 days.
George worked there for a while, and then he went to work in a strip mine, running a dozer. Then he worked for the Grinnell Co. as a sprinkler fitter. His job required that he travel all over the state.
"My mom had a cerebral hemorrhage," George said. "So I came home and helped my dad at the garage until she got better, but I never went back to work for that sprinkler company."
George went to work for Allegheny Construction Co. next, and then he worked at the Shawville Power plant, where he ran a crane.
"He loves to run heavy equipment," his wife, Edna, said.
George said he also helped run equipment to build Curwensville Dam. Around that time he said his dad had a heart attack, so he went back home to help out at the garage. When his dad had recovered, he went back to work on the road, where he helped with building state Route 255, The Million Dollar Highway.
While there, his boss asked him to accompany him to dinner; he was meeting his fiancee, who was bringing her employee along.
It was at that blind date that George met Edna. It was in 1952 when they got married, 60 years ago. "Then I started having babies every nine months," Edna George said with a laugh.
They had six children.
Camille George said he came home from being on the road and ran for Houtzdale mayor, which he won. He said he ran for county chair in 1968, and he won.
"I inherited a party that was $9,000 in debt," Camille George said. "So I got a Mustang and we sold chances on it, and got out of debt."
His son, Jake, sold the most tickets and the winning ticket.
After winning his seat as mayor, which he only held for one term, George was working in the administration office at the highway office.
He said he applied for the job and they gave it to him. He was in charge of District No. 2, which had 13 counties at that time. He was an automotive specialist and supervisor.
He said some people asked him if they could write his name in for state representative that year, a position that was held by Austin Harrier, since Harrier was running unopposed.
George told them to go ahead he didn't care, then he said he got 900 write-in votes, but they were challenged because of misspellings and such, but the judge ruled it was the intent of the voters to write in Camille "Bud" George for the seat.
So he went on the ballot for the general election that year, and he lost.
"The next time I ran on the Democratic ticket," George said, "And I won by 380 votes."
Five times in his career he ran unopposed, and he has been in Harrisburg for 19 terms, or 38 years.
When he first took the position as state representative, he didn't have a local office, so he worked out of his home for three terms.
"Not because I had to," he said. "But because I wanted to."
Then his mother became ill and he moved his office from his home, across the driveway to his garage and worked from there for a couple of years. Then about 24 years ago, he got the site of the current office.
"I didn't have anyone on my payroll," George said of when he worked from his home. "I didn't have a copier, I had one phone and I still got the job done."
Today he only has a small staff in Houtzdale, but they do a great job.
George appreciates the Democratic governors he has worked with over the years, including Milton Shapp, Bob Casey and Ed Rendell. He said between them, Clearfield County now has the prison in Houtzdale, Walmart Distribution Center, Lock Haven University, Quehanna Boot Camp and the Ethanol plant, not to mention other help they've given the county.
George has been on a number of committees over the years, but he has chaired the House Conservation (now Environmental Resources and Energy) Committee since 1983, and has since transformed it into one of the most powerful standing committees in the General Assembly.
He also serves as a member of the Environmental Quality Board, Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, the Wild Resource Conservation Board, the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control Committee, the House Democratic Policy Committee and the powerful House Rules Committee.
George said over the 38 years he has been in Harrisburg he has brought more than $200 million to the county for such projects as water, sewage and other types of grants.
"I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "I think there is a drastic change, not only in the state but in federal government. I took pride in being my own boss and I never forgot who put me there."
George said he's not going to retire, as he'll stay active in other fields. Currently, one of his concerns is the lack of local police protection. He said from Coalport to Philipsburg there used to be police officers in most of the municipalities; today only Decatur Township has a police force.
"We need officers to be walking the streets and watching the areas," he said. "I'm going to work on that."
Aside from that he's currently the mayor of Houtzdale once again, having won on write-in votes during the last municipal election.
"We've been pretty blessed," George said of he and his wife. "Except we lost our son Jacob in a car accident on Port Mountain after he graduated from college, but aside from that, we've been blessed."
George said while serving in Harrisburg he lost his parents and a sister, but aside from that, his life has been pretty good.
"I gave it my very best and I hope and pray that I did right for the people of my district," he said. "When they called, I hauled."
He said he is the longest serving individual in the 74th District. His Houtzdale office will remain open until Dec. 1, when the new legislature takes over.
George hopes his successor continues the services he provided and he wishes them well.
"It's difficult to step down," he said. "I've enjoyed helping the people and I don't care what party they are, I never turned anyone down."
He has been receiving numerous letters of congratulations and accolades from those he has helped over the years.
"I'm prouder than a stuffed elephant," he said.
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