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Shapiro fills key posts with allies, political vets

Plus, Pa. senator will be first to give birth while in office.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Friday, January 20, 2023
Top advisors, Mikey Stacks, chief justice, Senate first, legal fund, prison pivot, and fashion rule. This is PA Post. Thanks for checking in.

Newly minted Gov. Josh Shapiro is hiring a bevy of advisors, mediators, and policy experts to help him deliver on campaign promises like raising the minimum wage and cracking down on illegal guns.

His picks include campaign operatives, people he worked with at the state attorney general's office, and a onetime Republican lawmaker who supported former President Donald Trump in 2016.

Read our full report on the who's who of Shapiro's executive staff.

THE CONTEXT: Unlike Shapiro's cabinet nominees, the Democrat's top staffers won't need to be confirmed by the state Senate.

But they have some of the most important jobs in the new administration, and will help the governor strategize, offer policy expertise, and serve as his representatives in talks with the legislature, departments, and interest groups as he tries to deliver on key campaign promises.

"You're putting out fires all the time," said Mary Isenhour, who served as both legislative director and chief of staff for Shapiro's predecessor, Tom Wolf. 

Read more: Who has Gov. Shapiro nominated for his cabinet?


"Stack announced. He didn't announce it to the public but he announced to us [party ward leaders and committee people]. He said he's running for mayor."

—Philadelphia Democratic Party head Bob Brady announcing former lieutenant governor Mike Stack's intention to run for Philadelphia mayor
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» BROKEN BOROUGHS: Join us Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on Pennsylvania’s local governments and how their oversight — or lack thereof — impacts residents and governance. Register for the event here and submit your questions to

The remnants of a Pennsylvania Railroad timber trestle at the Haverford Reserve in Delaware County, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

The broken wooden remnants of an elevated railroad track.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.HIGH COURT: The 300-year-old Pennsylvania Supreme Court will get its first-ever female chief justice today. Debra Todd, an Ellwood City native, will be formally installed in the role in a ceremony at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, TribLIVE reports. Her predecessor, Max Baer, died months ahead of his planned retirement last year. As the court's next longest-serving member, the role of chief falls to her. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SENATE FIRST: Amanda Cappelletti (D., Montgomery) will be the state's first sitting senator to give birth while in office, The Inquirer (paywall) reports, and that's raised questions about accommodations in the upper chamber with female representation on the rise. "... the first response is 'Oh, we've never had to deal with that before,'" Cappelletti said. "And I'm like, 'Well, this is where we're at now.'"

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.GLEN MILLS SUIT: A $3 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit alleging abuse and deprivation at a now-shuttered juvenile justice facility in Delaware County. The AP reports: Former Glen Mills Schools students could receive both cash payments for those who experienced or witnessed abuse and funds to pay for or reimburse educational expenses as part of an ongoing federal class-action lawsuit.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.EXECUTIVE ORDER: The first executive order of Gov. Josh Shapiro's tenure has waived the four-year college degree requirement for tens of thousands of state government jobs, via Capital-Star. The order applies to 92% of commonwealth jobs, opening up roughly 65,000 positions to Pennsylvanians regardless of whether they hold a college degree. Shapiro called the old rule an "arbitrary requirement."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CONTRACT CUT: York County is cutting ties with a contractor accused of leading abuses of imprisoned people while training guards at the county's jail, The Dispatch (paywall) reports. Officials say guard training will now be led by county employees. The contractor, C-SAU, and its "Senior Team Leader" Joseph Garcia have drawn scrutiny for their methods elsewhere in the state. A related lawsuit is ongoing.
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» FRIDAY FUN: Another big week of Pennsylvania news is wrapping up. Let's see how closely you were paying attention with the first installment of Spotlight PA's new weekly news quiz. Good luck!

GARB LAW: A measure that would lift Pennsylvania's ban on religious garb worn by public school employees is headed to the state House after passing the state Senate 49-0. The bill's sponsors say Pennsylvania is the last state to strike such language, and that it applies to expressions of all faiths.

LONG DROUGHT: A drought watch that began over the summer is still in effect for five counties — Carbon, Luzerne, Northampton, Potter, and Schuylkill. Lehigh Valley Live says an official review starts today.  

GUCCIFER 1.0: The Intercept talked with the Romanian hacker Guccifer — real name Marcel Lehel Lazăr — a year after his release from a Schuylkill County federal prison that he describes solemnly as "a bad place."

BRIDGE FOR SALE: There's an old pair of piers from a defunct bridge up for sale in downtown Pittsburgh. What does one do with an old bridge pier? Maybe turn it into a rock climbing wall, WESA reports.

PHOTO OP: This photo of a ravine in Lititz confused Redditors — it got me too — who left comments questioning how the frosty scene was captured on a 60-degree day. Spoiler: The photo is black and white.

Unscramble and send your answer to We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Essential

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan D., Glenn L., Elaine C., Starr B., Becky C., Jon W., Barbara F., Wendy A., Susan N.-Z., Don H., David W., Dave P., Daniel S., James B., Trudy W., Dennis M., Bill S., Kimberly D., Stanley J., and Dianne K.
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