State Sen. Bob Mensch, who announced he’s retiring at the end of his term, has seen a lot of changes in the 18 years he’s been a legislator.
Mensch (R-Montgomery/Bucks/Berks) has seen the population shift from other parts of the state to southeastern Pennsylvania, and the politics of the Philadelphia suburbs go from solidly Republican to leaning Democratic. The southeast has also become more of the “economic engine” of the state, which has led to more congested highways, along with higher incomes and more jobs.
“I don’t want to be too parochial about the differences in the parties, but there, there is a change in some of the social structure politically as the county has turned more purple,” the 76-year-old senator said. “I’m a capitalist. I’m a ‘take care of yourself’ kind of guy. So, it’s no question why I ended up a Republican, but I think we have a greater reliance on government more generally today in Montgomery County.”
Mensch will be missed by his fellow Republicans.
“State Senator Bob Mensch has been a gifted legislator and a friend to many,” said Lawrence Tabas, chair of the state GOP. “His keen eye for branding, close connection to his district, and his desire to help others is surpassed by no one. Senator Mensch has worked with all of us to deliver countless victories for Pennsylvanians. His retirement will leave a huge, difficult-to-fill void in the Senate, but we are forever grateful for all he has given and wish him the very best in retirement.”
“Senator Mensch embodies what it means to be a public servant,” said Rep. Todd Stephens, (R-Montgomeryville). “He’s been a tireless advocate for the people of his district and Montgomery County as a whole. My district and I have been the beneficiary of his help in moving my bills in the Senate several times. He will be sorely missed and I wish him well in retirement.”
Nancy Becker, vice chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said, “Senator Mensch has done so much for his constituents during his time in the Senate. His office is always accessible and his staff are knowledgeable and courteous. I am sad that he is retiring. He has been an incredible friend. He is my favorite Senator. He will be missed. I wish him only the best!”
Mensch remembered when former President Ronald Reagan came to an event at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown.
“And he said, ‘It’s nice to be in the most Republican county, in the most Republican state in the nation.’ Now there was probably some hyperbole in that, but at the same time, there was an awful lot of Republicanism in the area, and it has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. I was more comfortable when we were more conservative.”
When asked about the legislation that he’s proudest of, Mensch pointed to funding for breast cancer research and improving insurance coverage for screening mammography, MRIs and reporting requirements for patients who have dense breasts. This condition can lead to delays in cancer detection. Earlier this year, he sponsored a driver’s license check off for breast cancer funding.
During his tenure, Mensch has also brought about improvements in how the state handles its checkbook. The commonwealth now uses performance-based budgeting, he said. This allows officials to “more fairly assess what programs are working, what programs aren’t working, where we can cut, where we might want to expand spending,” he said.
“It’s a deeper, more thorough, a more analytical dive into the actual data and it’s proven to be rather successful,” Mensch said.
While he was in the House, Mensch championed a bill to fund the cleaning of sites with industrial waste that can seep into the ground water.
“I was surprised to learn how many hazardous sites or potential hazardous sites that were in my district,” Mensch said. “We have farm fields where people build a house and all of a sudden they have, chemicals in their water.”
There were instances in Gilbertsville and New Hanover where new water systems had to be put in because the well water was contaminated. In the old days, some companies would just dump stuff on the ground and get into the aquifer, he said.
Asked about how lawmakers on the other side of the aisle would like to shut down work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline and steer the state away from its booming energy economy, said that was “short sighted.”
Wind and solar are not efficient enough to depend on yet, so he predicted we’ll be using fossil fuels “for some period of time.”
He called the thought that people can just get rid of fossil fuels “naïve.”
Mensch is vice chair of the Health & Human Services Committee and he also and serves on the Appropriations Committee; Communications and Technology; Community, Economic, and Recreational Development; Labor and Industry; and Legislative Budget and Finance. He co-chairs the Senate Life Science Caucus, Economy, Business and Jobs Caucus, and the Community College Caucus.
Mensch was elected to the Senate in 2009 after Rob Wonderling resigned. Before that, he served as a state representative and a township supervisor for Marlborough.
After he leaves office in 2023, Mensch plans to travel, both in the U.S. and abroad. He’s always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and he would like to look up some distant relatives in Germany, he said.
Mensch also plans to continue playing the clarinet and saxophone with Red Hill Band, Swing Shift and the other musical groups.
Asked what advice he would give to the person who takes over for him, Mensch said, “It’d be relatively simple: serve the people, not your ideology.”