Exit Interviews: Part 5: Fred Keller, The Builder

First elected to office in 2011, Keller spent more than 25 years in the manufacturing industry.

Keller spent more than 25 years at Conestoga Wood Specialties, eventually rising to plant operations manager.

Keller spent more than 25 years at Conestoga Wood Specialties, eventually rising to plant operations manager. Anna Moneymaker/Getty

After going from Harrisburg to Washington, D.C., Fred Keller is ending his time in office after more than a decade of public service. The Republican from Sunbury is in his second term in Congress representing the 12th Congressional district in north-central Pennsylvania and won’t be seeking reelection after being drawn out of his current district in the new legislative boundaries. 

Originally from Arizona, Keller said he came from a poor family that picked up bottles on the side of the road for extra cash. After moving to the commonwealth, he worked at Conestoga Wood Specialties for 25 years before starting his own business as a general contractor. When asked what Pennsylvania needs from his successor, Keller told City & State that it “would be helpful for the government to have that perspective from somebody who lived the American dream.”

“Government needs more people that recognize that just because somebody’s poor doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent, and it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve great things,” he said. With personal development in mind, Keller said education has become a key issue for him during his last term. He expressed support for the CHOICE Act and SKILLS Act, bills that would respectively expand Pell grant eligibility and help connect individuals to high-demand occupations. 

Throughout his tenure, Keller has been a staunch supporter of conservative priorities such as decreasing government spending, preserving Second Amendment rights and rolling back abortion rights. He currently serves on the Committee on Education & Labor and the Committee on Oversight & Reform. 

Following the 2020 presidential election, Keller was one of 126 Republican House members who signed on to the amicus brief contesting the election results. Most recently, as chair of the Congressional Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus, Keller has sought to improve staffing and resources available to the federal agency. Although he didn’t say what he’ll be up to after leaving office, Keller said his biggest lesson for his successor is to remember they’re a servant of their constituents. 

“Oftentimes, people say that Harrisburg and D.C. change people. That’s not what happens. It might reveal who they truly are, but (it) does change people,” Keller said. “People that get elected to office need to remember for whom they work … The people don’t work for the government. The government works for people.”