Retiring Collier commissioners leave lasting legacy
By Megan Guza
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Three Collier commissioners have cast their final votes.
Commissioners Kay Downey-Clarke and Tim Young and commission President Bob Schuler did not seek re-election in November and served their last meeting Dec. 12.
“We had a great group of commissioners,” Schuler said. “And I think that helped strengthen our staff and management.”
Township Manager Sal Sirabella, hired under the three retiring commissioners, is part of that management team.
“We will miss them,” he said. “I intend to keep them on speed dial.”
Republicans Wayne Chiurazzi and Jason Oskamp and Democrat Nichole Kauer will replace the three outgoing commissioners next month on the five-member board.
Young, 64, who was a teacher and principal in the Chartiers Valley School District, was looking for something to do.
“I retired from Chartiers Valley in 2009, and I was looking for something to do that would be beneficial to the community,” he said. “I live in Collier across from the high school, so it all seemed to fit together.”
He said his mission was to improve Collier, for its residents.
“I had no specific agenda when I ran in 2009 — just to make it a better place for people to live,” he said.
He considers the board's biggest accomplishment during his tenure the acquisition of land at the former Charles E. Kelly military base.
“The township knew for the last 10 years that the Army was leaving, and the township had to turn it into parks and recreation,” he said. “We started the project in 2010 and right now, we've torn down several buildings, put in a soccer field, hockey rink, pickle ball court, and we're building the gymnasium.”
Downey-Clarke, 74, agreed that the park was just one of the board's top accomplishments.
“There are two things, and I don't know which one is better,” she said. “We were able to have Sal Sirabella as our manager. It was one of our best decisions. And of course, all the work that has been done at the park, and Sal was a part of that as well.”
She served eight years on the board of commissioners and the previous 25 on the zoning hearing board. She said she ran for the board after thinking that she could make a difference.
“I was going to the meetings regularly and complaining and I thought I could do a better job, so I decided to run,” she said. “I more or less put my money where my mouth was.”
In her time on the board, she has been an advocate for the Panhandle Trail and organizes the annual Rock the Quarry event. She said she plans to stay involved with both of those.
With her new extra time, though, she plans to travel. “We have family practically all over the country, and we also do a lot of traveling internationally,” she said.
She said there already are plans to sail from New York to England on the Queen Mary next summer, where they will take a train to Paris and sail back to New York on the Queen Mary.
Schuler, 78, will move from one elected office to another, as he was elected Collier tax collector last month.
Even though he will no longer be a commissioner, “I'll stay involved, and I'll probably volunteer for some things,” he said. “If I'm asked, I'll do it – I enjoy living in Collier.”
He also cited Sirabella's hiring as a milestone in his six years on the board.
“The big thing, I felt, was that we needed to have a stronger management team,” he said. “I think us hiring Sal Sirabella – he's really helped to upgrade our staff up here, and I feel good about that.”
He said Collier Park, built on the acquired military land, is the legacy he hopes to leave behind. He said the decade-long process has paid off for the township.
“It took a long time,” he said, “but we're there now.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or email@example.com.
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