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Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor making history

Lt. Governor Austin Davis has already made a name for himself in politics. Newswatch 16's Lisa Washington went to Harrisburg to talk to him about his new role.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — At just 33, Pennsylvania's new lieutenant governor has already made a name for himself in politics.

Austin Davis, the second-highest elected official in the Commonwealth, is also the first African American to hold the position and the youngest lieutenant governor in the country.

Earlier this month, Lisa Washington went to Harrisburg to talk to Davis and see how he's settling into his new role.

"This is the lieutenant governor's balcony, and this is literally the best prime real estate in the capitol. It's better than the governor's," said Lt. Gov. Davis. "If you walk over those silver things that are spinning, that is the governor's balcony, and that is the governor's office, but he does not have this beautiful view, direct line down the Susquehanna River." 

Occupying the office with what he considers the best view from the state capitol may be new to Davis, but the western Pennsylvania native is not new to politics in the Commonwealth.

"Although I'm young, I've had a lot of experience working in government at different levels and a lot of experience delivering real results for working-class families here in Pennsylvania," explained Lt. Gov. Davis. "I served for five years in county government as a senior advisor in Allegheny County, helping to run a large government bureaucracy. I served for five years in the state House of Representatives."

Davis graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and says it was an act of violence in his neighborhood that lured him to work in public service.

"At 16 years old, someone was shot on my block, and I decided that rather than wait for someone else to take action, I was going to do something about it," said Lt. Gov. Davis. "I went to a McKeesport city council meeting and realized very quickly there was nobody who looked like me serving in city council, and there was nobody talking about the issue of gun violence. That really got my trajectory in public service started and led me to the University of Pittsburgh to working in county government."

Davis credits his parents, his father, a bus driver, and his mother, a hair stylist, for encouraging him to work hard to accomplish his dreams.

"My parents always instilled in us if there was a problem, you had a responsibility to try to solve it. Don't wait for somebody else to do it. And they really nurtured us to believe that we could do anything that we set our mind out to do," added Lt. Gov. Davis. "And so that attitude really made me believe that I could serve and make a difference."

Though his leadership roles have changed, Davis says his goals of fighting for families remain the same.

"Everybody in the commonwealth deserves to live in a community that is actually safe and in which they feel safe," explained Lt. Gov. Davis. "I didn't really start out in public service to want to be an elected official, but I clearly saw that government could be a force for good, and we need people with real lived experience. We need diverse voices."

As for being Pennsylvania's first African American lieutenant governor, Davis says it's not lost on him what this moment in history means.

"These are paintings of all the former lieutenant governors, and if you'll notice when my picture is hung there, it will stand out a little bit more. I have a responsibility to help pave the way for the next generation of leaders, and while I occupy this space and this awesome opportunity. It's not one that I paid for, and so I have an opportunity to pay it forward," added Lt. Gov. Davis. "I really want to be somebody they can reach out and touch and see and be an example to them because you never know who's watching. You never know who may be inspired."

Davis says he hopes his legacy will be that of someone who is a real public servant who is making a difference. 

Watch Lisa Washington's full interview with the lieutenant governor below.

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