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Senador Jim Brewster

McKeesport – January 11, 2024 – State Senator Jim Brewster announced today that he would not seek re-election to another term in the state Senate.

“It has been an honor, privilege, and pleasure to serve the citizens of the 45th Senatorial District in the Mon Valley and Southwestern Pennsylvania in the state Senate, but it is time to explore other options and take on new challenges,” Brewster said.

“While I am concluding my service in the Senate at the end of 2024, I will continue to help the communities of the 45th district.”

Throughout his time in the Senate, Brewster has been a leader on issues impacting the Mon Valley and Western Pennsylvania. With his long tenure serving the Mon Valley he has been recognized as “dean” of the region’s legislative delegation.

“I am exceptionally proud of the work that my staff and I have done to solve problems for citizens throughout the area,” Brewster said. “The efforts have been rewarding and I hope they will have a lasting impact.

“I want to thank my wife Linda, my family, staff and friends for supporting me throughout four decades of public service.”

Many colleagues, officials and community leaders have weighed in on Brewster’s announcement to retire.

Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis, longtime friend of Senator Brewster, commented on the senator’s role as a mentor as he advanced through school and eventually government.

“Over the years, I have had the great fortune to have a number of political mentors and public servants who have inspired me on my path toward public service, but Senator Brewster was there from the very beginning,” said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. “As I started to speak up about the issue of gun violence in my hometown of McKeesport, then-Mayor Brewster encouraged me to organize with other young people and take action. He made me feel like my voice mattered, even when I was a high school student and couldn’t yet cast a ballot. I have always valued his kindness and honesty, and I appreciate how hard he has worked for the people of McKeesport for nearly 30 years. I wish him well in his retirement and hope he gets to spend some well-deserved family time with his wife, daughters and grandchildren.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said that Brewster has been a good friend and an outstanding senator and leader who has made a difference.

“I want to wish my dear friend and colleague Jim Brewster a happy and well-deserved retirement from his lifelong career of public service,” said Senator Costa. “For nearly 30 years, Jim has been committed to making the community he loves safer, stronger, and better. No matter what seat he held, from city council to mayor to state senator, he has always been a strong advocate for McKeesport and Allegheny County at large. I am eternally grateful for his work on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, as well as his work in the transit and transportation space, ensuring our roads and bridges are equipped to get our working families from place to place. Jim is a man of deep integrity, passion, and excellence, and his legacy will be one of profound love of his hometown. It’s been an honor to serve alongside him, and I will forever cherish the time we spent in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus together.”

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said he is honored to have learned from and worked alongside Senator Brewster at various levels of government and community.

“Jim Brewster has upheld a lifelong commitment to McKeesport and the entire Mon Valley,” Cherepko said. “He is a hardworking, goal-oriented leader, who has always strived for the growth of our region. He does this with a kind heart and genuine concern for his neighbors and constituents. I’m proud to call him a mentor and a friend.”

LuEthel Nesbit, McKeesport City Council Vice President, also commented on Brewster’s announcement. “In all the decades that I have known Jim, I can say there is no such thing as retirement for a man like him,” Nesbit said. “He has devoted his life to working tirelessly to make sure his family, community and constituents receive the best government possible. Therefore, I will simply wish him good luck and much success on the next chapter of his life.”

Amanda Settelmaier, Executive Director of the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments (TCVCOG), said that Senator Brewster tackles problems head on.

“As a former Mayor, Senator Brewster truly understands the challenges our communities face – he has worked tirelessly to pass legislation and bring funding solutions back to his district,” Settelmaier said. “For example, Senator Brewster has been an important ally in the complicated battle against blight. I will miss working with him, and the quick wit and humor he often brought to our conversations.”

Longtime Forward Township Commissioner Dave Magiske called Brewster a leader who will be missed.

“In my 20-plus years in government, Senator Jim Brewster is the best legislator I have ever met,” Dave Magiske said. “He is what every PA resident deserves to have represent them.”

Brewster’s tenure in the Senate was marked by his involvement in solving difficult issues and being a part of landmark court decisions.

At two different times, Brewster appealed to the PA State Supreme Court on behalf of the constituents he represents. First, in 2012, a Republican-majority Court agreed with his argument that a partisan reapportionment plan to move the 45th District across the state to the Poconos would splinter the interests of the Mon Valley and leave his constituents without a voice in the state Senate.

“There was no question in my mind that our region would have suffered if the Senate district was moved under that proposed reapportionment,” Brewster said. “We would have lost our ability to leverage funding and influence legislation.”

Then again following the 2020 election, Brewster successfully appealed to the Supreme Court after his re-election was challenged by his opponent regarding the counting of mail-in ballots. Despite being certified by the state as the winner, Brewster’s seating for a third full term was delayed by his opponent’s attempts in court to not count all the ballots. The court cases held up Brewster’s swearing-in and the certification of the Presidential results in Pennsylvania. However, after a series of state and federal court decisions against efforts to cast aside legitimate ballots, Brewster prevailed in the case, ultimately protecting the votes of his constituents in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“It was a historic ruling. I was clear that I wanted all the votes cast to be counted because that’s how democracy works,” Brewster said. “Politicians cherry-picking which votes should be counted is simply wrong.”

Beyond his involvement in historic court cases, Brewster has been instrumental in helping channel immense state resources to the region and the state. During his years of service, the senator was able to directly or indirectly secure almost $350 million in the 45th District for development, safety, transportation, education and more to 56 communities and 23 school districts.

“I have lived in the Mon Valley all my life and witnessed the economic devastation following the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980’s,” Brewster said. “Since then, by working together, we have been able to inject new funds, redevelop former brown fields and create excitement for business investment in the area.”

Throughout his time in the Senate, Brewster served as Democratic chair of two committees: Law & Justice and Game & Fisheries. He has also been a member of Education, Transportation, Banking and Insurance and other committees.

As committee Chair of the Game & Fisheries Committee, Brewster led the effort to establish Sunday hunting, reversing a decades-old “Blue Law”. He also shored up the financial underpinnings of the Game and Fish & Boat Commissions and sponsored the creation of the “Hunting Heritage License Plate,” with the proceeds from the sale used by the Game Commission to fund conservation initiatives.

“There is no question that the key to legislating is finding common ground where all sides can be satisfied that they’ve been heard and included in the finished product,” Brewster said. “I have been able to find middle-of-the road compromise as one of the most bi-partisan legislators in Harrisburg.”

Brewster said that he is enormously proud that he has an open and transparent relationship with local governments in the district. He said it is important that Harrisburg recognizes that if small problems encountered in communities are not addressed, they can become big, unwieldy, and costly.

“As a former mayor and councilman in an economically challenged city, I understand the importance of helping small cities, boroughs and townships,” Brewster said.

Among his many accomplishments, Senator Brewster said that he is proud of the millions of dollars that have been allocated to schools in Pennsylvania to keep children and teachers safe, a top priority for him during his time in the senate.

Brewster has been a member of the School Safety and Security Committee since its creation in 2018 and the original advocate for hardening schools while at the same time addressing core causes by making mental health assessments more prevalent and counseling more available. This committee has helped provide hundreds of millions in critical funding to protect school students, faculty, administration, and staff from threats.

In 2019 Brewster recommended the committee establish baseline standards of safety for every school in the Commonwealth. Specifically, he encouraged the committee members to establish physical baselines, including items such as door locks and cameras; mental health baselines, including school counselors and psychologists; and environmental baselines, including air quality monitors as well as lead and mold abatement.

“We have taken steps to prepare educators and students, and we have put the money in place to work with students and staff to make improvements in safety and security.”

In addition, Brewster is grateful to have been a part of the historic investments in public schools in Pennsylvania. The largest funding commitment to public education in history has included programs to address the state’s teacher shortage, funding for remediating toxic schools, funding for school-based mental health programs, updates for school safety and security and providing for more substitute teachers.

Brewster is also proud to have been an early leader in the move towards diversity in society. Over the course of four decades in the private and public sectors, he was a champion for more minority leadership. During his career with Mellon Bank throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, when women were not promoted as often into positions of power, Brewster is proud to have had two of the three executive vice president positions working with him held by women. And then during his career in public service, Brewster helped elect seven women as mayors of communities that he represents as well as several minorities and women to high-ranking positions in state government.

“When underrepresented groups are at the table, we see improvements in discussion and decision-making, and the organization is stronger,” Brewster said.

Still, Brewster said that there are important initiatives that he has committed to seeing through after his final term in the senate. The three-term senator said that he plans to stay involved and would continue to serve the community.

“I’m not really retiring from public service, I’m just going to attack problem solving from another direction,” Brewster said.

The senator has been a leading voice on addressing the drug epidemic in Pennsylvania and across the country, and his “Drug Prevention, Recovery, and Enforcement” plan to address addiction will remain a top priority.

The proposal, introduced over several legislative sessions, is a three-pronged effort designed to prevent abuse, spur recovery efforts enforce strict laws aimed at taking drug pushers, who use illegal firearms, off the street. In particular, the plan requires mandatory treatment for drug addicted offenders charged with minor offenses, imposes strict opioid prescription limits, and adds stiff penalties for those possessing large quantities of drugs and illegal guns.

Senator Brewster also said that seeing the Mon-Fayette Expressway completed will continue to be important to him. He has been a leading voice for the bipartisan effort to push for the completion of the final section of the roadway which has been planned for more than four decades.

“This is not just a transportation project,” Brewster said. “The expressway will stimulate economic development in the Mon Valley, improve connectivity and growth and help residents gain access to jobs.”

Sean Logan, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner, credited Senator Brewster for being instrumental in restarting the Mon-Fayette Expressway to continue from Jefferson Hills to Monroeville.

“If it weren’t for Senator Brewster, the Mon-Fayette Expressway project would have ended in Jefferson Hills,” said Sean Logan. “His passion for transportation improvements will benefit Southwestern Pennsylvania for decades to come.”

Brewster was first elected to the Senate in a Special Election in 2010. He was re-elected three times. Prior to his service in the Senate, Brewster was Mayor of McKeesport beginning in 2004. He was elected to City Council in 1995 and served as its President.

Before embarking on his political career, Brewster graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Education. He spent three decades working in banking and was Vice-President of Operations for Mellon Bank. He was elected to the McKeesport School District Hall of Fame and the McKeesport Athletic Hall of Fame.