Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor Jr. leaves his decisions up to faith.
“A person of faith worries that God is looking over his shoulder and does the correct thing,” he said.
Castor was the featured speaker Monday at the annual banquet of The Men’s Group of Christ United Methodist Church in Towamencin.
His message was that morality and moral decisions are lacking in government today, with politicians making decisions based on what is politically correct or what friend or crony could benefit, rather than doing what is right.
“In my career, I have seen the worst things that people can do. We need to take the talents that we are given to better ourselves and our community,” Castor said.
Castor is in his 26th year with Montgomery County, which makes him the longest serving elected official in the county.
He revealed that he grew up in Abington and currently resides in Lower Salford Township with his family. He still attends the Abington Presbyterian Church—noting that his faith has had a big influence on his life and the decisions that he makes.
Castor, a Republican, began his career in 1985 working as an intern in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. He went on to become an assistant district attorney with the county, holding statuses in the Sex Crimes Unit, the Major Crimes Unit, and as assistant district attorney of the Investigating Grand Jury.
Castor then moved on to deputy district attorney and Chief of the Trials Division. Under District Attorney Michael Marino, he was appointed to first assistant district attorney, and then district attorney, where he had an accomplished career in prosecuting a number of murder cases.
Currently, Castor serves as a Montgomery County Commissioner, along with Jim Matthews and Joe Hoeffel, while he also holds a position at the Blue Bell firm of Elliott, Greenleaf and Siedzikowski.
“The county is a pretty big place with a lot of complex problems, and it has been an interesting last three-and-a-half years,” he said.
Castor explained that Montgomery County is governed by just three commissioners: Two represent one party, and the third represents the other political party. They each serve for four years, with no term limits.
They are responsible for governing 800,000 people in the county. There are 3,200 employees in the county with a $500 million budget.
“People ask what qualities are necessary for a commissioner. You have to be honest. I am a black-and-white person, which was perfect in the D.A.’s office,” Castor said.
He bluntly stated that after three-and-a-half years, Montgomery County is bankrupt — it has spent all of its money.
Debt is at the highest level in the history of the county. He said that the governor’s budget has been tough on a lot of areas, but he wanted to put the blame for the problem to rest.
“The economy has caused the county to be broke, [that] is just a lie. The problem is the county has spent more money and borrowed more money than they took in,” Castor said.
When asked what can be done to get the county back on track, Castor said that, first off, he has cast more “No” votes on issues that would increase spending than any other person. He feels that the debt needs to be restructured, and the county needs to get rid of waste and big ticket items.
Castor said commissioners need to get to the core of their jobs, which are the social services, bridges, roads and the like, and get away from what some say is “economic development.” He said that is just a drain on taxpayer money; it is used to try and entice private industry to the county, which is often unsuccessful.
One overwhelming issue that was discussed was the friction that continues to exist between the three commissioners. Castor openly admitted to the problem and how it hinders their ability to work together.
In the 2007 election—even though he earned the most votes—the other two commissioners took over.
“I’ve been accused of being sour grapes and being a dictator, but Jim Matthews can’t tell the truth, and Joe Hoeffel is an opportunist,” he said.
He reminded the audience that the upcoming election is a critical one.
“Voters occasionally make mistakes. But they don’t have to live with them. This is an election year,” he said.
Jenny Brown, a Lower Merion Township commissioner, is Castor’s running mate in the upcoming election. Castor said it is a long and involved process in the selection of a candidate, and he feels confident in Brown and her abilities as an articulate lawyer.
“Montgomery County is a bellwether county in the presidential election of the United States, and the upcoming elections will be the predictor,” Castor said.
And what did Castor think about the media?
“They keep government officials honest, and they don’t always do it. The public distrust of the media is almost as bad as that of politicians,” he said.