Remembering Earl M. Baker

Member Group : Guy Ciarrocchi

By Guy Ciarrocchi

The Honorable Earl M. Baker passed away last week, after a lifetime of public service and citizenship to the citizens of his beloved Chester County and our Commonwealth.

A former State Senator, County Commissioner, Pennsylvania GOP Chair, counselor, writer, and mentor for generations, Earl was old-school in his work ethic, yet forward-thinking in his vision.

He cared deeply about his home community, our state and our nation — and the GOP. Of particular note, Earl managed to do what all too few leaders do today: serve as a loyal leader of his party, yet never forget or lose focus on the actual issues and policies that were the bedrock of his beliefs.

Up until his passing, he was focused on two causes. First, enthusiastically promoting the use of American energy — especially Pennsylvania’s natural gas — to strengthen our economy, create jobs and protect America from its enemies. And second, rebuilding the GOP into a winning, governing majority.

As a County Commissioner in the 1980s, he was transformational as he and his colleagues led a study — and eventually created a blueprint — for where Chester County needed to be going: “Chester County 2020.” He saw the enormous population shift that was coming to Chesco. And he was a bright, thoughtful, forward-looking policy-maker who knew that when Chester County would double its population, it would need more and better roads, upgraded public transit, strong education, and those things we take for granted like storm-water management, police, fire and housing. That was not the sort of thing that Commissioners often did — especially from what was then, still, the “little kid” of the five-county region; the mostly rural community of Chester County, then only about 285,000 people.

Yes, he was far ahead of his time.

As GOP Party Chairman, his focus was on grassroots recruitment and training, and nominating qualified candidates on a ticket to represent a geographic and ideological balance. He actually used to drive across the commonwealth to meet with county chairs and run training seminars for local committee people, candidates and volunteers.

Yes, he was also old school.

After his eventual tenure in the State Senate — the next logical step for this policy-maker and party-builder, he became active in business and chambers and campaigns at the local, state, and county level.

The last decade found him working on his passions: making the case for Pennsylvania natural gas and regrowing his shrinking party — preaching unity and coalition building.

In his last years — now having to be driven to his causes by his devoted wife and very much his partner, Jackie — he would criss-cross to campaigns and chamber events across our region.

In personal notes, by hand and by email, he offered counsel, encouragement and guidance.

In 2017, the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry awarded him its “Lifetime Achievement” Award.

Earl and his family attended the packed event. Earl concluded his remarks by “admonishing” the audience — and the Chamber’s CEO (yours truly) — that he was not retiring. His work was not done. He still was going to contribute.

And for nearly seven more years he did. Meetings, guest columns, conference calls, conferences and, yes, Zoom, too.

He contributed so much. He led by example. He offers a roadmap on how to be a public servant, party leader, candidate (he even wrote a book about it) and citizen-leader — without damaging any of those roles.

His legacy is his family. His legacy is his work. His legacy is those he mentored and the path he charted.

A job well done. Rest in peace, Earl — and thank you.

Guy Ciarrocchi is a Senior Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad + Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. And, yes, Commissioner Baker was my first boss in government. Follow Guy @PaSuburbsGuy.