Tom McMahon, Al Boscov recall Arlen Specter's impact on Berks County

Author: , 69 News Photojournalist
Published: Oct 14 2012 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 16 2012 08:25:52 AM EDT
READING, Pa. -

Some of Arlen Specter's friends in Berks County are remembering the former senior senator from Pennsylvania.

A day after the passing of Pennsylvania's longest serving U.S. senator, many local leaders took time to reflect on Specter's lasting impact.

"Arlen was not only concerned about Reading, he was concerned about any city that was doing lousy," said Al Boscov, owner of the Boscov's department store chain.

"He was the kind of person who was a professional, and you knew as a career politician that he really cared about the people," said Tom McMahon, former mayor of Reading.

Reading was always on Specter's radar, said McMahon, noting that when the city needed help over the years, the senator was willing to listen and help with revitalization projects.

"He was there when we needed him for things like the brownfield sites, mediation money, when we had a project at Fifth and Penn and needed to take a derelict building down, he was there to help out," said McMahon. "He really helped on the Exide issue, with the contamination of the soil here and in Laureldale."

When it came to turning around Reading's image, Specter worked very closely with Boscov.

"He tried any way he could to try and solve some of these problems. I respected him, and I think he respected what we were doing here," said Boscov, who added that federal funds and private donations were distributed to many projects in Berks County, such as revitalizing homes, widening Route 222 and helping city schools.

Specter also helped to secure federal money for training courses for nurses and medical technicians at Reading Area Community College and St. Joseph Medical Center.

Federal funds gathered by Specter also provided Reading police with security cameras, Boscov said. The Opportunity House also received $500,000 in federal funding, prompting the shelter to name its daycare center in honor of Specter and his wife, Joan.

"It can care for 300 children and 72 babies a day over three shifts," said Boscov.

The former senator was Reading's voice on Capitol Hill, said Boscov, and his legacy will continue to impact lives in the future.

"We get to talk about our problems, and he responded to them," said Boscov.