Meet the Legislator PA Representative Mary Jo Daley (D), 148th District

Meet the Legislator PA Representative Mary Jo Daley (D), 148th District

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Meet the Legislator

PA Representative Mary Jo Daley (D), 148th District

 

Mary Jo Daley didn’t realize it until much later in life, but growing up the oldest of seven kids, four of whom were boys, helped solidify her abilities to consistently push at glass ceilings, take on leadership positions and advocate for women’s issues.

She grew up in Narberth, a borough of Montgomery County, and has remained in her hometown area as an adult. “It’s a small town with a small town feel,” she explains. However, its proximity to urban opportunities belied its laid-back atmosphere. “For most of my life, I worked in the city and enjoyed everything that Philadephia has to offer in terms of culture and recreation.”

Daley’s parents encouraged talk about politics; her mother was a supporter of social justice, and father a union electrician. “We were a strong union family,” she remembers. “When the farmers went on strike, we boycotted lettuce, grapes… You got a real sense of what unions meant.” She became personally fascinated with politics when John F. Kennedy ran for president. “I guess I was in sixth grade. We paid attention and talked about it at Catholic school.”

Reading through her resume, it might seem like Daley was destined to be a leader, but she didn’t set out to change the world. She envisioned a future that focused primarily on family, like her parents had. While she did have a beautiful daughter in her early 20s, she eventually found herself entrenched in the world of academia. Over time, she earned degree after degree, although never taking a straight path. “I juggled a lot,” she admits. “It took me eight years to finish my bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t easy. But I learned I could do what I set my mind to do… I was tough enough to take bumps because I had goals.”

Daley began meeting goal after goal, following-through until she reached her objectives. Now, when she visits campuses like Montgomery County College, she mentors students who are toughing it out. “I tell them to hang in. Everybody doesn’t have a straight path. It’s important to know that what you’re doing is something you will appreciate.”

Her positive attitude has helped her weather personal storms, never taking away her sense of humor or perspective. It’s also allowed her to open her eyes to unique opportunities, including running for elected office in 1991. Having been a Democratic committee leader for years, she wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with local politics. Yet she was surprised – and excited – when she ran for borough council and won. “I served eight years as the only Democrat.”

During her time on the council, she ran for a PA House seat and lost. Turning lemons into lemonade, she decided to go back to school for her master’s degree. “I was relieved I didn’t win because I really enjoyed working. However, I thought I might run again. Time went by and the incumbent stepped down. Someone called and asked if she would be interested.”

It took a weekend of thinking and speaking with her husband, who said he would back her. On Monday morning, she sought out additional advice from a trusted professor. She told him she wasn’t sure because she was comfortable in her university position. Thinking back, she was happy that she took time to get his opinion: “He said, ‘Mary Jo, boredom is a dangerous thing.’” Pausing, she adds, “ I called the county chairman and said, ‘I’m in.”

Now a part of the House for several years, Daley is fully enmeshed in her role. To de-stress, she practices meditation exercises, which she feels help her stay focused. Like everything in her life, she sees it as a fun challenge. “It’s not like you’re perfect at it, so you practice. I really work at it. When you have a busy life, you figure it out.”