Mark Schweiker was born January 31, 1953, the son of John and Mary Schweiker, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was raised in Bucks County and graduated from Bishop Egan High School and Bloomsburg University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in 1975. Schweiker received a master’s degree in administration from Rider University in New Jersey in 1983. Schweiker became governor as a direct result of the events of September 11, 2001. In 2004, he received an honorary doctor of law degree from Rider University.
Schweiker was employed by Merrill Lynch and McGraw-Hill Companies prior to owning his own management consulting firm. He entered public service in 1979 when he was elected Middletown Township Supervisor, a municipality that represents part of his native Levittown in Bucks County. In 1987, he was elected Bucks County Commissioner and continued in that role for seven years until he entered the race for lieutenant governor in 1994.
In 1994, Schweiker defeated his Republican primary opponent, Thomas Rippon, with a tally of 570,000 to 296,000 votes, placing him on the November ballot with Tom Ridge. The Ridge-Schweiker ticket defeated Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mark S. Singel and former state Secretary of Labor and Industry Tom Foley by 198,000 votes. Schweiker was sworn in as lieutenant governor on January 17, 1995.
In 1998, both Ridge and Schweiker were unopposed in the Republican primary election and were victorious in the November election. Their opponents were Democratic gubernatorial candidate and State Representative Ivan Itkin of Allegheny County and lieutenant governor candidate Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Montgomery County. Ridge and Schweiker won reelection with 57% of the vote.
As lieutenant governor, Schweiker served as president of the state senate, and chaired the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and Board of Pardons. Governor Ridge appointed Schweiker as a liaison and advocate for local governments and as his lead strategist for community-based crime prevention policy. Schweiker also served as a leading spokesperson and advocate for the administration’s efforts to modernize and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state government through an initiative known as PRIME. He led the “Weed and Seed Program” to revitalize and improve safety in local neighborhoods and led an Interagency Task Force on Energy to promote conservation and influence federal policy on energy matters that affect Pennsylvania.
On October 5, 2001, Schweiker became the Commonwealth’s forty-fourth chief executive when Tom Ridge was appointed director of the Office of Homeland Security by President George W. Bush. Among Schweiker’s first priorities as governor was to ensure the security and safety of Pennsylvanians in the wake of terrorists attacks on the United States that had occurred on September 11, including the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on Pennsylvania soil in Somerset County. He continued with his predecessor’s policies of increasing security at all state government facilities, at public venues, and on the Commonwealth’s Internet network. State and local law enforcement, along with National Guard troops were assigned to protect airports and nuclear power plants. Schweiker convened a Security Council and a Security Task Force to develop and implement state anti-terrorism measures and policies. He also directed the creation of the Commonwealth’s first Office of Homeland Security in early 2002. Over $200 million was committed by the Schweiker administration to domestic security.
Schweiker’s first and only budget reflected the realities faced by many governors in the wake of a weakened national economy. Pledging not to raise income, personal, or business taxes, he secured the concurrence of the General Assembly to utilize part of the Commonwealth’s “Rainy Day Fund” and raise cigarettes taxes to balance the fiscal year FY 2002–2003 budget.
Among other issues addressed by Governor Schweiker were health care and education. Physicians and hospitals faced skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums and several medical malpractice insurers were bankrupt in Pennsylvania early in the 21st century. To address these issues Schweiker signed Act 13 of 2002 that provided some health care provider protections, including a mandate that plaintiffs file lawsuits in the county where alleged medical malpractice occurred instead of in jurisdictions known for lucrative malpractice awards, and establishing new methods of underwriting medical malpractice insurance. The law also created a Patient Safety Authority, an independent state agency under Act 13, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error ("Mcare") Act, and set up a trust fund to protect health care consumers. Though criticized by some for not going far enough to address issues fundamental to rising malpractice insurance, such as malpractice itself, Schweiker had, at least temporarily, addressed some of the apparent issues.
Pennsylvania’s public schools continued to weather significant problems. Urban and rural schools were particularly hard-hit by funding inequities, high student-teacher ratios, and inadequate infrastructure. Public school systems in Harrisburg and Philadelphia were among the most distressed. Critics charged that the emphasis of the Ridge-Schweiker Administrations on charter schools had come at the expense of public education. Schweiker responded by signing legislation to partially enhance state funding to struggling public schools and to ensure the availability of textbooks and other basic supplies. The new law also established a School Reform Commission and further clarified and defined the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) testing program designed to measure basic skills development among school students. Despite some reforms, public education and the manner in which it was funded (property taxes and a declining level of state support) remained an issue that would resonate among voters in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Events in Somerset County in July 2002 favorably thrust Schweiker into the national spotlight and epitomized the danger inherent in one of Pennsylvania’s once prominent industries: coal mining. On July 24, miners in Quecreek punctured an abandoned water-filled mine while working. Maps had not adequately charted the abandoned mine. Flooding ensued and nine miners were trapped 237 feet underground. Along with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the state Department of Environmental Protection, Schweiker oversaw a dramatic seventy-seven hour rescue. The successful effort—all nine miners were rescued—drew the attention of the nation.
Schweiker is married to Katherine Reichert Schweiker, a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. They are the parents of three children, Brett, Eric, and Kara. Just as he had tentatively decided not to do while lieutenant governor before the events of September 11, 2001, he chose not to seek election as governor at the conclusion of his term in January 2003. Schweiker next became president and chief executive officer of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, with expertise in all core business areas, he left the chamber to become president of the Business Process Solutions division of PRWT Inc. with corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. Schweiker was on the board of directors for BioAdvance, is Director Emeritus for the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) and on the board of visitors for Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business.