Incoming state Rep. Valerie Gaydos has firm roots in the Sewickley Valley

Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 6:03 AM


Amazon was offered several billion dollars in incentives to move its second headquarters to Pittsburgh. Still, it said “No thanks!” Instead the online retail giant selected New York City and Arlington, Va. for its new hubs.

Valerie Gaydos, 51, of Aleppo, points to this as the perfect example of why she ran for office to represent the 44th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“The question is: How bad is Pennsylvania that $8 to $10 billion worth of sweetener didn’t finish the deal?” asked Gaydos.

She notes the state’s high corporate income tax and says the state is not as favorable as others towards start-up companies.

After winning a tight race in the May Primary, Republican Gaydos beat Democrat Michele Knoll in the November general election to win the seat held for more than 15-years by Republican Mark Mustio. Mustio did not seek reelection. Gaydos will be sworn in Jan. 1.

The 44th district includes the townships of Aleppo, Crescent, Findlay, Moon, North Fayette and Ohio, and the boroughs of Bell Acres, Edgeworth, Glen Osborne, Glenfield, Haysville, Sewickley, Sewickley Heights and Sewickley Hills.

Gaydos plans to use her 25 years of small business and entrepreneurial experience to “help make Pennsylvania a friendlier place for business and then, in turn, make it a better place for people.”

“I always say, ‘Life is full of burdens and government shouldn’t be one of them,’” said Gaydos, who believes government should be nonpartisan.

If you’re from the Sewickley Valley, you probably recognize the Gaydos name.

Valerie’s dad, Edward, was a dentist in Ambridge. Her mom, Martha, owned a consignment shop.

Her uncle John Gaydos was a doctor at Sewickley Hospital. Uncle Tom Gaydos taught theater at Robert Morris University, with the claim to fame that he gave Michael Keaton his first job. Uncle Ted Gaydos ran the Ambridge Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s.

Valerie Gaydos, a native of Sewickley, graduated from Sewickley Academy in 1986. She attended Dickinson College, where she majored in Russian language and economics with the hopes of joining the NSA or CIA someday.

During her senior year, she interned with U.S. Sen. John Heinz. Then, after graduating, she took a job as a legislative aide working with state Sen. Mike Fisher.

It was through that job that she became interested in the private sector.

Over the last two decades, Gaydos admits she’s done “a lot of really cool things.”

In 1994, while working in Maryland at a job starting up a technical council, Gaydos started her own information publishing company that sold data online to the financial and entrepreneur community.

She went on to invest in small startup companies, including one that sold to Intel.

She served as the director of the Pennsylvania Private Investors Network and president of the Pennsylvania Angel Network, an association of start investors across Pennsylvania.

After her husband, Bruce Johnson, died of cancer in 2002, Gaydos ran both of his legislation publication companies that sold data.

She sat on the board of the PA Business Council for nine years.

More recently she began investing in Hivers & Strivers, an angel investment group focusing on start-up companies run by U.S. Military veterans.

“That’s been super cool,” she said.

Sitting on the PA Business Council, Gaydos often had the opportunity to interview candidates running for office for the business communities endorsement.

All too often she found herself asking “Wow, is this the best we can get?”

She was often told that she should run for office. But the timing was never right.

In January 2017, Gaydos’ mom died of Parkinson’s Disease. Gaydos had spent the last few years focusing on her mom.

Once her mom died, she sat back and though: “How can I make an impact? How can I use my experience?”

That’s why she ran for office.

Gaydos plans to use all of her experience to make a difference in Harrisburg.

She has ideas for how to help businesses, and it’s not all about the taxes — although that’s part of it. She talks about the need to improve transportation infrastructure, pool health care so small businesses don’t have to lay off employees because they can’t afford the health insurance and promoting the trades.

John Dunn, a Sewickley councilman, said the area is in good hands with Gaydos — who he called “a renaissance woman” — as its representative.

“She is a down-to-earth, very caring person that understands what’s needed in this position,” he said. “She’s going to be a good force within our area.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.