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Leetsdale man surprised by opportunity to meet Obama

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Leetsdale didn't get its chance last week to greet President Obama, but one of its residents did.

John Mier, 62, attended Obama's stop at the Community College of Allegheny County's North Fayette campus after being invited by the White House.

The encounter led to meeting and taking photos with the president and vice president.

In the fall, Mier wrote a letter to the president proclaiming his support for the Affordable Care Act. A portion of the letter was read in October during a speech by Obama.

Mier said he never imagined writing the letter and attending the event at CCAC would lead to meeting Obama.

“I just kind of thought we'd go there and see a speech and that would be OK,” Mier said.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden used CCAC's West Hills Center, a vocational training facility, as a backdrop on April 16 to announce $600 million in competitive grant programs for job training and apprenticeship initiatives.

“We want to replicate your model across the country. You're doing something right that's making a difference in people's lives, and we want to spread the word,” Obama told about 275 people during a 20-minute speech.

Mier said he and a small group of others were ushered into an area to watch Biden and Obama.

“We waited for hours for the thing to start,” he said.

As Obama's speech began, Mier said he thought a chance meeting with the president seemed likely.

“Ten minutes into his speech, that's when they pulled us out and that's when I realized I was meeting the president,” he said.

In a sectioned-off area backstage, Mier said he and others waited until Obama's speech ended to meet the two.

“I was really excited to meet them,” he said. “President Obama is very nice and is trying to put people at ease. He comes off very casual.

“It was pretty cool. I feel really fortunate.”

Mier introduced himself to Obama by saying “I'm your man in Leetsdale,” he said. Mier said Obama replied, “I know you are.”

Leetsdale initially was to have been the location for the president's visit, but the event later was switched to North Fayette.

In his letter, Mier proclaimed his support for the health care law. Mier, who is self-employed, said the law helped him and his wife receive affordable health care coverage, which is why he wrote to the president.

Mier said he still thinks the Affordable Care Act has helped him.

“The coverage we have is better than what we would have had,” he said, adding that he could have been paying $24,000 a year for coverage, but now will pay about $9,000.

But politics aside, Mier said meeting the president and vice president was a moment he will cherish.

“You really don't think of seeing these people but when you do it is striking,” he said.

Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report. Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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