6:02 PM EST, January 3, 2013
And it is U.S. Rep. Mark Critz whom she credits for making sure Ralphton residents had clean water.
"I feel if it would not have been for Mark Critz we never would have got it," she said. "By Mark not getting Mr. Murtha's seat there is little hope for us small communities."
Ralphton water problems are nothing new. Critz's predecessor and former boss, the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, tried to bring good water to Ralphton when Critz was his district director.
"He continued Mr. Murtha's work," she said. "He saw that the county commissioners got the grants. He worked with the water people."
Caldrone, who has met Critz, said that the congressmen knew from working for Murtha how important the water situation was.
"He's more like a hometown person," she said. "He was in for the people."
She said that even when Murtha was working on the project, she believes Critz was doing the legwork.
"He was in the job for the people," she said. "He's a unique man, a caring individual. He really does care how we feel."
Critz was always a cellphone call away on projects such as Ralphton, according to county Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes. Tokar-Ickes met Critz in 2000 when she began her first term as county commissioner.
One particular phone call came in 2008 when the Route 219 project was about to lose federal funding because the state had not identified a $35 million match. Tokar-Ickes picked up the telephone and called Critz.
"That was an 11th hour call to try and assist our state legislators to make sure the $35 million would be allocated for the project," Tokar-Ickes said. "He's on my speed dial and he answers his phone. That's very refreshing."
Whether it was telephone calls for state funding as an aide or voting for the toll credit language changes this year, Critz has been supportive of the project, Commissioner John Vatavuk said.
Vatavuk said Critz's strength as a congressmen came from Murtha. Not only did he learn from Murtha but being on his staff allowed him to make contacts he kept when he became a lawmaker himself, he said.
"He probably dealt with more people than Murtha did as his director," he said.
Critz served as a staff member on the Somerset County Leadership Team, which works with the commissioners on issues, as a staff member and made sure his staff was represented on the team. Tokar-Ickes said Critz did a lot for the county that people do not know about. She said as a staff member Critz was an "unsung hero" to the county.
"That's what he continued to do as a congressman," she said. "Many of the things he did most people probably didn't know about."
Vatavuk met Critz in 1999 when Vatavuk ran for the state House and considers him a friend. Vatavuk said being a politician did not change Critz.
"Since he got elected he is still the same person," he said.
Part of being the same person is being concerned in infrastructure projects and knowing the value of a strong infasturecure in bringing growth to an area, he said.
Ed Sheehan, CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp. in Johnstown, said Critz has not changed in the 18 years he has known him.
"Mark is a very humble and respected individual," he said. "He didn't change from the time he left the staff position to being elected. I've met a number of congressional leaders and you can't say that about all of them. He didn't have to be the one getting credit, but he was going to work harder than anyone else to see success occur."
Sheehan said Critz would always make sure to follow up on projects and was always well-versed in the details.
"When I think about Mark I think about the way he cared for the region and his people, the people that live here," he said. "He is very committed to this district and this region. It wasn't just a job. "
Sheehan worked with Critz and Murtha on the annual Showcase for Commerce, scheduled for May 29-31. Sheehan said Murtha knew the importance of the defense industry. Even though Critz did not have the seniorty as his late boss he still had the connections he made as a staff member.
"I was very sad to see the outcome of the election," he said. "Mark was truly a good person who worked very hard for this region and I hold him in a very high regard."
In 2012 Critz held several public meetings about proposed changes to rural post offices in Somerset County. Tad Kelley, spokesman for the western Pennsylvania district of the U.S. Postal Service, said that Critz was very vocal in his support of the Postal Service.
"In any of the meetings that we held he and his aides had a tremendous understanding of the issues the Postal Service was dancing," he said. "He didn't sit back. He came to meetings and had an amazing understanding of the issues we are facing. We consider him a tremendous ally because of that."
Linda Thomson, Johnstown Area Regional Industries president, said Critz was able to take his background as what and put it to work as a congressman.
"What was good is he knew almost every company in our region," she said. "He had a real grasp on who was expanding, who had infrastructure, which communities needed infrastructure. He had a very clear grasp of all of the dynamics going on."
Thomson said when elected he made sure to get committee assignments, such as the Armed Services Committee, that would help the region.
"That made it easy for him to support projects such as 219," she said. "He had been working on these things this whole time. He had that personal connection on the ground floor with a lot of these projects."
Thompson said replacing Murtha gave Critz some big shoes to fill, but he did an excellent job.
"Anybody who worked with Mr. Murtha would say you couldn't help but learn and grow from this experience. He was so knowledgeable, so dynamic," she said. "It rubbed off on Mark and he tried to continue that legacy. I think Mr. Murtha would have been very proud of him. We all were very proud of him."
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