Turzai, affable yet intense, had bounded from his office with legal pad in hand, apologizing for his informal look - jeans and V-neck sweater - on the day before the session is to begin.
The five-term legislator from the Pittsburgh suburbs ascends to the post when the state's budget crisis is dominating the agenda. He takes over from Sam Smith (R., Jefferson), who is expected to be elected speaker by his GOP colleagues on Tuesday.
Since Turzai was first elected to the House in 2001, he has worked his way through the Republican leadership ranks as policy chairman and minority whip by focusing on a pro-business agenda and taking Democratic Gov. Rendell to task for what he calls profligate spending.
"You can't grow government and grow the private sector," says Turzai, who has pushed for lower business taxes and an end to frivolous lawsuits, an agenda he says "never really got traction" under Rendell.
Administration officials, of course, beg to differ. "Gov. Rendell has reduced the capital stock and franchise tax and ended lawsuit 'venue shopping,' and that has greatly reduced the number of lawsuits, which has turned around the exodus of physicians from Pennsylvania," spokesman Gary Tuma says.
Turzai says he expects Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett to be open to private-sector-driven initiatives he has been championing without success.
Last year Turzai authored a bill to privatize the state liquor stores, a goal that eluded two previous Republican governors. His version died in the Democratic-ruled state House.
But that was then and this is now. Turzai's party won firm control of the House in November. With Senate Republicans maintaining their grip and a Republican in the executive suite, the political stars are aligning in support of Turzai's agenda.
His State Store bill takes on new prominence this year as a likely model for Corbett's goal of selling the stores to raise an estimated $2 billion. Corbett has spoken favorably of Turzai's proposal.
Turzai; his wife, Lidia, a pediatrician; and their three children live in Bradford Woods, north of Pittsburgh.
His grandfather was a Hungarian immigrant who worked in the steel mills in Beaver County before opening a grocery store. His Irish-born grandmother was a maid.
A Joe Namath-autographed football in a plexiglass case is the most prominent objet d'art in his office.
Why Namath? "He's from Beaver Falls, from a mill family, like most of us out west," says Turzai, whose public-service career choice was in no small part motivated by having witnessed the steel industry's collapse in Western Pennsylvania in the 1980s.
In 1998 Turzai, then a Bradford Woods Borough Council member, made a giant political leap: He took on U.S. Rep. Ron Klink in a bitter congressional race. During the campaign some of his supporters accosted Klink at public appearances and tried to videotape the Democrat at his home.
Turzai ended up apologizing to Klink, saying he regretted allowing his campaign to veer from the issues and engage in attacks.
Turzai, who speaks of restoring civility to Harrisburg, says he learned a valuable lesson in that bruising race. "Your reputation matters more than holding office," he says.
In 2006, he ran for his party's nomination for lieutenant governor but lost in the primary to Montgomery County Commissioner James Matthews.
Liked by colleagues, Turzai was unopposed in his quest for majority leader last November.
He promises a full review of state spending and a thorough examination of the legislature's costs, including the controversial daily living allowances and car leases.
"We will start from zero with every department," Turzai says. "We will ask everyone to justify their expenditures."
Turzai wins praise for his intellect and instincts from business leaders.
"He'll be an excellent leader," says Fred Anton, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. "He has a combination of understanding of practical politics and a commitment of principle that has eluded our Republican leadership for some time."
Nick DeBenedictis, president of Aqua America, the Bryn Mawr-based water company, says he was surprised 10 years ago when a rookie lawmaker from the western part of the state approached him wanting to talk about business ideas.
"I thought it was chutzpah at first. Then I thought, 'This guy really has a public service agenda,' " DeBenedictis says. "He's very smart, and you know where he stands."
DeBenedictis says Turzai is unafraid of going after sacred cows such as the State Stores.
Some of Turzai's supporters have kidded him about being crazy for taking such a post at a time when the state must dig out of a $4 billion to $5 billion deficit amid a slow recovery from recession.
Turzai brushes it off. "In the most challenging times, you can get the most done," he says. "You can be bolder."
Residence: Bradford Woods, Allegheny County.
Education: B.A. in English, Notre Dame University, 1981; J.D., Duke University School of Law, 1987.
Professional experience: assistant district attorney, Allegheny County; partner in law firm Houston Harbaugh; elected to state House of Representatives in special election, 2001; re-elected five times. Has served as House Republican whip and policy chairman.
Family: Wife, Lidia; three children.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or email@example.com.