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Graziani leaving Latrobe to become new Penn Township manager

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Chris Foreman | Penn-Trafford Star
Latrobe city manager Alex Graziani started as Penn Township manager on May 1.

Rosie Wolford considered it a “tremendous coup” when Latrobe officials coaxed Alex Graziani into becoming their city manager in 2011.

Now, Latrobe's mayor says, Penn Township is getting a “gem” in Graziani, who starts as the new township manager on June 2.

Graziani, who spent a decade as executive director of the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, brought vision, energy, creativity and access to state leaders to Latrobe's government, Wolford said.

But, Wolford said, she recognized that Graziani's success in Latrobe might give him a stepping stone to another job. Penn Township has about 20,000 people, compared to about 8,300 for Latrobe.

“We're a small community, and it wasn't going to take long for somebody to recognize his talents and snatch him up,” said Wolford, an 11-year city official.

Graziani, 43, of Greensburg will take over for Bruce Light, who is retiring after serving 19 years as the first manager in Penn Township. Graziani will be paid $92,000 a year to be the manager and board secretary.

A certified planner who is on the Pennsylvania State Planning Board, Graziani steps into a role that commissioners want to be more active in promoting the township to businesses that are seeking to build or expand. The hiring comes as they consider a temporary tax-abatement program intended to spur development in the Bushy Run Corporate Park and at the intersection of Route 130 and Pleasant Valley Road.

Graziani said he recognizes economic development is a priority for township officials.

“I expect a balanced approach to growth to be the key theme — more development without compromising quality of life,” he said.

Penn Township is getting a conscientious and detail-oriented manager who quickly will be able to assess the township's needs from a planning perspective, said Rob Ritson, who served on the Smart Growth board when he was manager in Hempfield Township. Ritson now is chief of staff for state Sen. Kim Ward (R-39).

At Smart Growth, which is a program of the Penn State Cooperative Extension, Graziani led the development of a master plan for land use along a 40-mile stretch of Route 30.

Graziani's background, particularly involving transportation issues, will be one of his biggest assets, Ritson said. The construction of a turnpike slip ramp near Pleasant Valley Road is among the transportation projects that have been mentioned by many in the township in recent years.

Meanwhile, Allen Kukovich, a former state senator who is a founding Smart Growth board member, said Graziani is skilled at bringing together local officials, business leaders and developers to show ways that growth can happen while preserving the rural character of Westmoreland County.

“Alex is one of the best I've seen at being able to balance those competing interests,” Kukovich said.

Much of Graziani's recent work in Latrobe involved downtown redevelopment, including the Westmoreland County Community College's construction of a new education center. Graziani was helpful in working with civic leaders to help the college pick a site and buy several privately owned properties, WCCC President Daniel Obara said.

Though college officials also considered moving the center out of Latrobe, they preferred to follow the model they started by building a new center in the heart of New Kensington in 2009.

Another key project was the city's $3-million rehabilitation of a 280-space parking garage, which had been mired in squabbles among council members before Graziani arrived and made it his top priority, Wolford said.

“The guy's a visionary,” she said. “He can see things and think outside the box and think of creative solutions.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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