Then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro addressed supporters at campaign event on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)
By Michele Zipkin
In the few weeks since Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro won the Pennsylvania election, he has been assembling a transition team to help develop a plan for his new administration. Out of dozens of members spanning multiple subdivisions of those committees, at least 13 members are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Governor-Elect Shapiro and Lieutenant Governor-Elect Davis are committed to building an Administration that represents our entire Commonwealth, and they’re proud to have so many LGBTQ+ leaders and advocates from across Pennsylvania on their transition team,” Shapiro-Davis Transition Spokesperson Manuel Bonder said in an email. “This diverse, experienced group of leaders will ensure the Shapiro-Davis Administration is ready to get to work on day one to create jobs, improve our schools, make our communities safer, and protect real freedom and equality for all Pennsylvanians.”
The team includes advisory committees for several matters of business, including Economic Development, Environment/Energy, Public Safety, Education/Workforce, Health and Human Services, Consumer Protection, and State Government Operations.
Committee members Eric Gutshall and Romy Diaz, who will serve on the State Government Operations and Environment/Energy committees, respectively, both commented on the importance of LGBTQ representation in Shapiro’s transition team.
Gutshall is executive director of State Public School Building Authority and Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority and Diaz is a treasurer and board member of the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and former appointee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’m just very excited and proud to be a part of this,” Gutshall said. “I’m truly proud of our governor-elect because this is a great moment for our community and it’s a great moment to chart a course on where to go with LGBTQ equality in the next few years.”
As attorney general, Shapiro has a track record of supporting the LGBTQ community, including fighting to get nondiscrimination laws passed in Montgomery County and taking legal action supporting trans students’ use of the bathroom that matches their gender identity As governor-elect he has committed to passing bills that prohibit LGBTQ discrimination and expanding hate crime laws in Pennsylvania.
“I’m so pleased to see that Josh Shapiro understands and values representation by all the people of Pennsylvania including those who are LGBTQ,” Diaz said. “It’s an exciting time.”
Diaz added that it’s an honor to be named to Shapiro’s transition team.
“The fact that we’re talking about a governor like Josh Shapiro who has been an outstanding leader for so many years, and who has demonstrated how much he cares about the people of Pennsylvania, you can’t be more excited to support him and his tenure as governor.”
As a member of the Environment committee and with over 50 years professional experience in the environment and energy fields, Diaz hopes to help the administration increase clean energy resources in the energy-rich state of Pennsylvania, and in so doing create more job opportunities for young people.
“What I believe I see in the upcoming Shapiro administration and what I think would be great to deliver on is making sure that we’re using our energy resources in a way that’s protective of the environment and creates greater economic opportunities for the people of Pennsylvania,” Diaz said. “I think Josh Shapiro can get us there.”
Gutshall, who sits on the State Government Operations committee, commented on the size and diversity of the transition team members, which include people from different backgrounds and walks of life.
“I’m tremendously honored to be named to the Shapiro transition,” Gutshall said. “I look at this list of esteemed professionals, and it’s clear to me that the governor-elect and the lieutenant governor-elect want to do two things: seek input from a competent and diverse slate, and get a lot accomplished for the people of Pennsylvania. I truly think that a transition team shows a governor-elect’s values, and I think this proves that the governor-elect is going to be a governor that gets things done for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Gutshall hopes to bring his experience providing feedback and input from his time working as secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Wolf administration.
“I think that there will be an opportunity to provide input in many different areas,” he said. “I want to be able to provide as much feedback as I can based on my experience and what I’ve seen, to be able to help this administration succeed.”
LGBTQ members of the transition team include: Gutshall and Diaz, as well as Personnel committee member Nathaniel Yap, former director at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; Inauguration committee members Michele Kessler, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 1776, and Jeff Freedman, co-creator of the Pittsburgh LGBTQ news and resource website QBurgh; Rural and Agriculture committee member Hannah Smith-Brubaker, executive director of Pasa Sustainable Agriculture; Pre-K to 12 Education committee member Rich Askey, retired member of the Harrisburg Education Association; Health and Human Services committee member Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania; Human Services committee member Katie Dalke, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health; Government Reform committee member Mark Segal, founder and publisher of PGN; Legal and Judiciary committee members Jason Landau Goodman, board chair of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, and Sara Jacobson, executive director of training for the Public Defenders Association of Pennsylvania; and Local Government committee member Alex Reber, managing partner at Miller Dixon Drake, PC.
Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.
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