When Jeanie Dillen started so far Rick Geist, one of many first issues she observed about him was his indefatigable curiosity in different folks and an “uncanny” capacity to recollect particulars of their first encounters.
Rick was in his mid-20s then and wasn’t planning to develop into a politician.
However then he determined to run for state Home of Representatives, and people “pure” capabilities helped him win the 79th District seat, which he held via biennial elections for 34 years — a tenure acknowledged Friday in a ceremony to mark the naming of an area bridge for the late assemblyman.
Rick Geist, who died in 2019, had a “servant’s coronary heart,” in line with Jeanie, who was raised together with Geist within the congregation of the First Church of the Brethren in Altoona.
“He was extra centered on others than on himself,” Jeanie mentioned after the ceremony, which came about on the Railroaders Memorial Museum throughout the unveiling of latest indicators the place seventeenth Avenue crosses I-99 — now referred to as The Honorable Richard A. Geist Memorial Bridge. “He would bend over backwards for others,” she mentioned.
Having met somebody as soon as, Geist wouldn’t neglect the circumstances of the assembly or details about the particular person’s household he’d realized, which helped him reconnect with these folks later, Jeanie mentioned.
His dedication to sustaining constituent connections wasn’t all the time simple on her.
Shortly after he received his seat, they started to get telephone calls at residence — typically complaints, typically prolonged, typically late within the night, typically fielded by Jeanie, as a result of Rick was typically in Harrisburg — and infrequently when she was drained from her job educating third grade.
Shouldn’t they get an unlisted quantity, she requested him.
“No,” Rick mentioned, in line with Jeanie. “I used to be elected to serve.”
She got here to simply accept it.
“Generally folks have to vent,” she mentioned. “Individuals must be heard.”
Her husband was an excellent listener, she mentioned.
He did a whole lot of listening at Mama Randazzo’s restaurant in Juniata, in line with state Rep. Lou Schmitt, who at present holds Geist’s outdated seat, and who launched the regulation naming the seventeenth Avenue bridge for Geist.
“Rick would sit there, and he would maintain court docket,” mentioned Schmitt, who organized the occasion on the museum. “Like a king.”
He appeared to know everyone who got here in, Schmitt mentioned.
“They’d stroll proper previous me,” he mentioned. “They wished to speak to him.”
Schmitt ran for the seat in 2018 on the urging of Geist, who had misplaced it to a conservative backlash within the 2012 main.
“I mentioned, ‘I’ll give it some thought,’” Schmitt mentioned. “Don’t give me that ‘give it some thought’ crap; you’re operating,” Geist instructed him.
Schmitt wrote a brief biography of Geist that was printed in this system for Friday’s occasion.
In distinction to the extra typical downside of getting to “pad out” such a bit, Schmitt struggled with what to depart out, he mentioned.
Geist was majority chairman of the Home Transportation Committee for 16 years and at varied occasions, was chairman of each the Home Minority Caucus and the Home Republican Committee on Committees, Schmitt wrote.
Geist helped reform the legal guidelines on teen drivers’ coaching, was the prime architect of the state’s DUI regulation, was an essential promoter of legal guidelines to enhance work zone and truck security; authored laws to create the Rail Freight Advisory Committee and laws to create the Ben Franklin Know-how Partnership, in addition to “his signature piece,” Home Invoice 3, which permits for public-private partnerships for transportation initiatives, in line with Schmitt.
Geist was additionally instrumental in founding the Tour de Toona bike race and conceived of and contributed to growth of Penn State Altoona’s four-year Railroad Engineering Diploma program, Schmitt wrote.
The bridge named for Geist is considered one of 425 state bridges which were named based mostly on laws, mentioned Tom Prestash, District 9 government.
There are greater than 25,000 state bridges, so such an honor is “not quite common,” Prestash mentioned.
Retired state consultant and present state Secretary of Agriculture Sam Hayes mentioned Geist was an professional all through his profession in constructing the metaphorical bridges essential to generate the unglamorous “grist” that goes into any legislative accomplishment.
The seventeenth Avenue bridge dedication Friday, then, serves as a becoming tribute to Geist’s deal with Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.