It’s just before 9 a.m. on a Friday, and Bryan Cutler is alone in his Quarryville office. Sitting behind his desk, he chats away on the phone as he begins to peruse the day’s first emails.
“I used to get a hundred emails a day,” he said. “Now, it seems like I get a few hundred every hour.”
It comes with the new job.
Cutler, a Republican representative from Peach Bottom, was elected by his GOP peers in the House to serve as majority whip this session — adding a Lancaster County voice to the upper ranks.
His new post make him the prime enforcer for leadership; he will be responsible for lining up votes and corralling a caucus that has failed, in recent years, to unite behind major legislation like property tax and pension reform.
“There’s an element of building a case and understanding where people are at on a certain issue,” the father of three said, adding that he is optimistic lawmakers can find common ground and reach across the aisle.
And, between his fresh new buzzcut and his relaxed disposition, the 39-year-old doesn’t look like a four-term lawmaker who just move into one of the top legislative posts in the nation’s sixth most populous state.
But he has built a long resume in his relatiely short time in office.
Cutler first took office in eight years ago after defeating two-term Republican incumbent Gibson C. Armstrong, whom he criticized for supporting a controversial legislative pay raise. Cutler’s unseating of Armstrong took some area Republicans by surprise.
His election in 2006 came while his career was at a crossroads.
A former X-ray technologist and administrator at Lancaster General Hospital, Cutler completed law school at Widener University just days after defeating 100th District incumbent in the May primary. He ended up taking the bar exam during his first year in office, but is only practicing part-time while serving in the Legislature.
He was among the largest freshman class of lawmakers to arrive in Harrisburg in decades. Many of them, including Cutler, promised to reform the way Harrisburg does business.
“The tone and tenor has certainly changed in Harrisburg due in large part to the high turnover we’ve had the past few years,” he said. “I think we’ve become more reflective of the people we represent.”
During his eight years in the General Assembly, Cutler has battled against welfare fraud, advocated for the expansion of alternative-energy sources and crafted laws that he says make hospitals work more efficiently.
Rep. Dave Hickernell, a Republican from West Donegal Township who has served alongside Cutler, said Cutler’s understanding of procedure and case law relating to lawmaking make him uniquely qualified to serve as whip.
“He is well respected among the caucus for his knowledge, skill and abilities, and is also personally well liked,” he said.
As a former staff member for former Rep. John E. Barley, who once served as GOP whip, Hickernell said he knows the importance of having a strong leader in that position. And he believes Cutler has what it takes.
“The whip needs to have the pulse of the caucus so that the entire leadership team knows what to expect during voting sessions,” he explained. “I believe that Bryan is perfectly suited for that task.”
Newly elected House Majority Leader Dave Reed agrees.
“He works hard and I think that, probably more than anything else, has helped him to get into the position,” he said. “He also tends to be pretty pragmatic when it comes to issues — focusing on the policy arguments behind the legislation rather than the political side of things.”
Reed has worked closely with Cutler before. They are members of a bipartisan panel of lawmakers seeking new ways to address poverty.
And both said they are hoping to find that same bipartisanship when it comes to other issues facing the state.
Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat from Lancaster city who has previously served as deputy whip for his caucus, said he is eager to see if Cutler and other GOP leaders deliver on that promise. And, he noted, Cutler may not get what he wants, even if his intentions are genuine.
“Being a good leader depends a lot on how much people allow you to lead them,” Sturla said.
Cutler said he’ll work hard because finding solutions to problems is more than just a personal goal; they are tasks he wants to tackle for the communities he represents, and the people who stood by his family during the darkest times.
He and his younger sister were the recipients of tremendous support from friends and family while his parents, Gary and Joyce Cutler, both battled ALS when he was a teenager.
The disease claimed the lives of both within a span of a few years. By 24, Cutler had lost both parents to the disease that attacks the nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.
“The experience made me realize that our way of life is really unique,” Cutler said. “When you go off to school and you see different things, you realize that not every community is like that. And it’s important for me to help preserve that.”
Watch portions of Cutler's interview