Go ahead, call us gullible if you would like.
But we firmly believe former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak has learned a lot since his time in the slammer and can be a very valuable public asset moving forward.
In our opinion, the former football star came across very sincere in a recent exclusive interview with the Times Leader, the first time he’s spoken at length publicly about his post-inmate life.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way.
Skrep can gloss over it or try to explain it any way he wants, but what he did warranted prison time.
Without getting into too many details about his crime, he didn’t believe there was anything illegal about the $5,000 break he got on closing costs for a Jenkins Township townhouse. Trouble is, he supported a tax-break program that the housing project was a part of.
Bad move, any way you cut it.
Any public official should be extremely wary of any preferential treatment they might receive. After all, even if everything is on the straight and narrow, the mere appearance of impropriety could be enough to cause an uproar. And all that is especially true for any public official holding office in Luzerne County, which isn’t exactly known for its squeaky-clean political history.
Bottom line: Skrepenak definitely messed up, and he deserved to be prosecuted and punished.
But as many have pointed out on social media over the last week or so, the man has paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance — a second chance that could be just as beneficial to him as the public.
Considering his unique story, Skrepenak is in a unique position to better the folks around him.
That’s why we’re hoping his recent return to the limelight is just the start for Greg. We want to see him out there — perhaps in a role as a public speaker — more and more.
How exactly can he help?
Let’s start with his former gridiron glory, which has now led to a variety of painful conditions and a fair chance he could be suffering from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. For us non-physicians out there, we’ll make it simple: CTE is what happens when you get hit in the head too much. Many former NFLers have shown symptoms, and it’s led to changes in how the game is played.
Skrepenak’s myriad of health issues at the relatively young age of 46 should serve as good warnings for local college, high school and even younger players. He’d be the perfect person to tell them and their coaches about the sport’s physical toll.
Then, there’s his life as a public official, which didn’t exactly go to plan.
You know those 800 or so folks who will appear on Luzerne County’s primary ballot next month? They’d be well-served by listening to Skrepenak as well.
Holding public office isn’t just about the mini-glory of seeing your name on a sign and in the newspaper. It’s serious business, and it’s about doing right by taxpayers who selected you to be good stewards of their money. If you don’t know what you are doing or get careless or lazy and don’t keep on top of things, there could be heavy consequences. Skrepenak’s tale would be great for all office seekers to hear loud and clearly, even those who are throwing their hat into the ring with the very best of intentions — just like Greg did all those years ago.
So, Mr. Skrepenak, since you’re still in the area, please do not hesitate to take a greater role in the community, however you may see fit.
It would be a real waste if you missed this opportunity to impact others in a positive way.
Remember, it’s not about falling down.
It’s about how you keep getting up.
— Times Leader