Taylor Picone said he believes it's time for a new generation of leaders in state politics.
And he believes he has what it takes to be one of those leaders.
The 31-year-old announced on Monday that he is running to represent the 124th Legislative District in the House of Representatives.
The district, which has been represented by Jerry Knowles for nearly a decade, includes northern Berks County and parts of Schuylkill and Carbon counties. Knowles announced last week that he will run for a sixth term.
The Windsor Township Democrat said he believes it's time for a change.
"I think it's important that my generation start to get involved in solving the problems facing our world," he said in a phone interview. "My generation has shouldered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising college debt, stagnant wages, a changing climate and climbing health care costs. I think it's important we start putting ourselves in positions where those problems are debated."
Picone, an officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, said that it has become clear to him that if he continues to stay on the sidelines he will inherit policies from a generation that will have no direct stake in the future.
He said that unlike some of the more seasoned lawmakers in Harrisburg, he has a fresh perspective when it comes to some of the issues facing his district.
"We are in a critical time where the future of the economy — in particular our jobs and our industries — depend on us taking a proactive approach to make sure that we balance tradition with new opportunities," he said.
Picone said there are tremendous opportunities in renewable energy, in the manufacturing of renewable energy, in the way that we farm, in what we choose to farm and in the technology we use to farm.
He said preparing for an economy built for the future would be among his top priorities should he be elected.
Another priority, he said, would be ensuring that his constituents felt represented and respected no matter which political party they may favor.
"Our job as elected officials is not to force our views on our constituents," he said. "We must represent their voices and we can't do that effectively if we are the ones encouraging partisan divisions and intentionally alienating half of our constituents."
Picone said he also understands that the elimination of school property tax is the biggest priority on the minds of those who live in his district.
He said he would support getting rid of the tax for primary residents but believes that businesses should continue to pay. Although, he added, he would endorse some protections for small business owners.
Picone is the first Democratic candidate to formally announce a run for the 124th Legislative District in the April 28 primary.
State representatives serve a two-year term and receive an annual salary of $90,300.