Municipal Member Profiles
Local government is where the decisions that affect citizens most directly are made – and it is important to share the good work of municipalities and local elected officials. These people – often volunteers – give countless hours to their communities and toward making their places of residence better for all citizens.
Profiles for Members A-F
Aleppo Township is a suburb of Northwest Allegheny County with nearly 2,000 residents and often goes unnoticed. However, this small township has a huge vision and has been making significant strides to engage its residents and keep them informed in Township operations.
The local elected and appointed officials in Aleppo are most proud of transforming the process that involves residents in local government. Leaders in Aleppo recognize that most citizens want to be involved but they need tools to do so, because they have limited time and information. By taking advantage of technology tools like YouTube, the Township has been streaming their Board of Commissioners meetings since 2015.
By breaking down the meetings into small digests based on specific topics, residents can watch only the portions of the meetings that are of interest to them. This allows residents to participate without demanding their attention for an entire meeting. Not only is it a helpful tool to keep citizens informed, but it also allows the Board of Commissioners to receive more feedback from residents and to understand varied viewpoints that may have been missed otherwise.
This effort has also allowed for an exploration of how the township meetings are organized to increase efficacy. Topic-centered meetings are held as “workshops” where language is crafted for motions. Communications then take place between the local government and the local residents, sharing the video digests and asking for feedback and input. Then, at the “legislative” meetings, motions are voted on. This system creates an atmosphere of well-informed residents and local elected officials who are truly responding to their constituents.
The Aleppo Board of Commissioners former Present is Matthew Doebler, who was also a member of the ALOM sister association AC&WPATC. When asked about what he finds most valuable about his participation in the associations, he responded: “connecting with great vendors is crucial, as is the opportunity to learn about what other communities are doing. Membership in AC&WPATC as well as ALOM allows me to share thoughts, gain connections and facilitate professional development.”
The community of Aspinwall is often referred to as “Mayberry” by the residents of this borough that sits along the Allegheny River and has a population of around 3,000 people. The municipality boasts a dedicated group of elected officials and community members and has had several notable accomplishments over the past few years. These include the unveiling of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, the Junior Council Program, and a successful Neighborhood Watch program.
Similarly, the formation of a Shade Tree Commission started 9 years ago by Council President Joe Noro has grown into a huge community-building program for Aspinwall that is beneficial to businesses and residents. With the help of grants from TreeVitalize, Aspinwall has planted 125 new trees throughout their borough. It takes over 30 volunteers to plant each group of trees, and businesses come together to offer food and refreshments to the volunteers after a long and hard morning of tree-planting. The volunteers of the Shade Tree Commission also help to maximize borough dollars by bidding out tree trimming and other services related to tree maintenance.
Regarding their membership in Allegheny League of Municipalities (ALOM) and the Allegheny County Boroughs Association (ACBA), former ACBA Board Member and Aspinwall Council Member Ann Pawlikowski had this to say: “I’m impressed with the group’s dedication to their communities and their length of service. Being part of ALOM and the ACBA allows me to remain knowledgeable and engaged with local colleagues as well as with Harrisburg.”
Butler Township, Butler County is a large township with over 17,000 residents and contains a rich history dating back to the 1800s. Modern day Butler Township is the only first-class township in Butler County, and is a hub of activity with a strong local government presence. Local elected officials and municipal staff work together on several programs to build a sense of community for both current and future generations of Butler Township residents.
An example of such efforts is the newly implemented Student Representative Program. The program was started through partnership between the Butler Township Board of Commissioners and the Butler Area School District and allows a designated member of the high school to sit in on the board meetings as a non-voting member. These youth participate in discussions, represent student interests to the board, and take information back to their peers at school. The goal is to cultivate the next generation of local leaders by getting students involved in local government.
Another notable example of Butler Township sense of community is shown through volunteerism at Preston Park. Called the “Jewel of Butler Township” this 88-acre estate willed to the township requires extensive maintenance. Every single week up to 20 volunteers attend park cleanup and maintenance efforts coordinated by the township.
Furthermore, even in times of tragedy the local government officials and community of Butler Township work toward common goals. Recent flooding in 2017 left many residents and properties in need of clean up and assistance. Township officials worked with local construction companies and shared equipment to clean properties, haul debris and clear waterways.
Dave Zarnick who is President of the Butler Township Board of Commissioners, is Past President of the AC&WPATC and is an ALOM Board Member had this to say about his experiences with ALOM and its affiliate associations: “I find that the association staff are knowledgeable and networking with colleagues from around the region is very helpful and a critical resource when questions or needs arise. The Spring and Fall conferences also provide essential professional development on relevant topics that I can often bring back to my community.”
Castle Shannon is a well-known borough in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with a population of around 8,500 people. Like so many local communities, the level of public service and volunteerism among the local elected officials and other residents in Castle Shannon is extraordinary. Just a few of the many examples of this include food giving programs, a community garden, stream clean-up programs and more.
The borough designates part of the communities’ millage to serve the local library, which is very active. They hold an annual Community Day and Fall Fest and have initiated a group called “Futures Forum” to engage local youth in borough activities.
One of their most recent and most successful endeavors is called “Third Fridays” sponsored by Borough in partnership with the Community Revitalization Corporation. Over this summer these events have featured live bands, local restaurants, and other local businesses. Each event is themed, and the August event will be focused around the notorious 1917 Bank Robbery which is a very famous piece of Castle Shannon history.
Nancy Kovach serves as a Council President in Castle Shannon and also sits on the board of directors of the Allegheny County Boroughs Association (ACBA). When asked what she finds most valuable about her participation in our association her response was: “I find that the educational and networking opportunities provided by ALOM and ACBA are invaluable. The association provides settings for professional development and interfacing with legislative leaders that are essential to being an elected official in Allegheny County.”
Profiles for Members G-O
During the last 3 decades, Leetsdale has experienced great rebuilding and growth. Leetsdale Industrial Park grew from the property once vacated by Bethlehem Steel. Now featuring various warehousing and manufacturing tenants, the park is still growing. Nearby Buncher Commerce Park has also grown and welcomed in new tenants, helping to make Leetsdale a bustling and vibrant community today.
Additionally, the Leetsdale 4th of July Committee works year round to collect donations, fundraise and organize the Leetsdale 4th of July Celebration & Carnival. Most of the fundraising is put toward the fireworks display held on the evening of the 4th with some fundraisers being held almost a year in advance. With growth of the industrial and commercial sections becoming a success, Leetsdale now looks forward to drawing in new residents and families to the small neighborhood.
Profiles for Members P-Z
Whitehall Borough is a community of 3.2 square miles in the southern part of Allegheny County. Their community is home to just under 15,000 residents. Whitehall is a close-knit community, and their borough council works hard to keep an array of quality amenities available to residents. They believe people choose to live and stay in Whitehall because of the quality of the services they provide.
Whitehall is extremely proud of their Library and the fact that it is one of the top libraries in the Commonwealth. They have worked hard to make sure that the library services are accessible to all people in their community, and have a program called the “LEARN (Library Easy Access for Residents in Need) Bus” that helps provide transportation to the library for a large immigrant community in their borough. This allows the citizens access to computers, culture, other learning opportunities that they would not otherwise be able to access without this transportation assistance.
Whitehall has six public parks and their council has a five-year parks plan to continually update recreation and amenities to best meet the needs of their growing community. The council takes pride in listening to the suggestions of residents and added a “pickle ball” court after community members brought the courts to their attention. It was an easy win for all involved.
The functions of their local government are also always a point of pride. The Public Works department is continually looking for ways to proactively repair the infrastructure needs before they become a more serious and expensive problem. Whitehall boasts 20 full-time police officers and a fully volunteer Fire Department. They also have a wonderful community pool that welcomes families all summer.
Whitehall has been active in ALOM for a long time and finds the relationship of immense value to both their council and their residents by extension. Linda Book, a 5th term councilwoman, explained that “ALOM is the only place that can facilitate learning experiences with other neighboring boroughs and townships, especially through their conferences. We can learn so much from the ways that other communities have had success or failures in similar situations. Our residents deserve the best from their local government, and ALOM helps to make sure that all communities are learning and growing together for the success of everyone.”