Brentwood mayor's advice to residents: Get involved
Ken Lockhart rarely wore a suit and freely said what was on his mind.
“What you see is what you get,” said Lockhart, who often was seen in a polo shirt or sweater instead of the traditional dress attire. “If I don't like what you're saying, I'll tell you. If I like what you're saying, I'll tell you.”
The Brentwood mayor of 12 years prided himself on being candid with the residents and said he always strived to help the organizations and people of the borough — whether through volunteering in nearly every community and school group he encountered in his early days of living in the borough or by having his say as one of the community's top leaders.
Lockhart, 62, a Democrat, did not seek re-election this year and served his last day as Brentwood's mayor on Monday.
“I wanted my voice and my opinion on things to be heard,” Lockhart said. “I can't believe 12 years have gone by. But it's time to take a breather.”
Newly elected Mayor Dennis Troy, a Republican, was sworn in on Monday to serve a four-year term.
Lockhart, who grew up in Peters Township in the days when it was a rural, “country” area, said he enjoyed when people attended council meetings — even though there were times when they were screaming. At least they were getting involved.
“Get involved, no matter how little it is,” Lockhart repeated several times.
That's the most important advice he wants to leave with the Brentwood residents, he said.
Lockhart moved to Brentwood in the early 1970s after marrying his wife, Susan, who grew up in the borough.
Their first home together was on Brownsville Road.
It was convenient and in close proximity to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Lockhart worked as an X-ray technician for about 10 years.
“It was a big change for me,” Lockhart said. “I grew up on well water. To me, this was like the city.”
He initially planned to be a nurse.
After graduating from high school in 1969, Lockhart attended nursing school at St. Joseph Hospital.
Yet, as the only male student, one year in, he said, he thought he wasn't getting the proper training. So, he opted to leave and become an X-ray technician.
He received his license from St. Francis Hospital in Lawrenceville in 1972, worked at Children's Hospital and then became a driver before working at and later owning Osborne Mobile Diagnostics.
Shortly after moving to Brentwood, Lockhart joined the Brentwood Volunteer Fire Company.
He never had been a firefighter before but wanted to do something for his community, Lockhart said. He later climbed the ranks and served in numerous positions including assistant chief and president and now is a nonactive life member.
He also helped start an initial ambulance service in Brentwood — along with his brother-in-law Rick Morrell — shortly after moving into the borough that would be run out of the police department, Lockhart said.
The two men went before Brentwood Council and the mayor at the time to discuss the possibility of getting an ambulance service started, Lockhart said, an idea that council OK'd. Grant funding was received, and members of the Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services helped with the start of the ambulance service in Brentwood.
Lockhart, Morrell and others were trained as emergency medical technicians and volunteered their time for the service, he said.
Brentwood Emergency Medical Services was incorporated years later.
As a parent, Lockhart became involved in band and parent teacher organizations.
As a youngster, though, Lockhart never planned on going into politics.
“I hated politics in school,” Lockhart said. “My teachers in school, if they found out I got into it, they'd probably be rolling around or laughing.”
Susan Lockhart was appointed to Brentwood Council. She served a two-year term and then opted not to run. So he did.
“That's the only thing that I hadn't done in the borough,” Lockhart said. “I wanted to have a say.”
And there were things he still wanted to do for the fire and ambulance services that Lockhart said could be accomplished by serving in elected office.
“There's so much they still needed,” Lockhart said.
Twelve years ago, Lockhart was elected mayor.
As he cleaned out his office last week, boxes filled with papers lined the room — filled with papers, donated items for soldiers and statues of bald eagles, one of his favorite mementos.
Lockhart said he came across a petition, filled with thousands of signatures from residents of Brentwood and surrounding communities fighting to get a post office in the borough. He met with people from out of town and fought to get a post office in Brentwood Towne Square, Lockhart said.
Lockhart — working with a group of five people each month — organized Brentwood Cares, in which packages were sent to troops oversees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On average, during the last 10 years, between 30 and 35 packages were sent overseas each month. During the holidays, three packages were sent to each soldier on the list, including a Christmas tree, snacks and other specialty items they couldn't get elsewhere.
Fortunately, Lockhart said, during the last several months, all of the soldiers have returned home, and Brentwood Cares is being disbanded.
“He was a really nice mayor,” said Mary Lou Garase, an administrative assistant for Brentwood Borough for 30 years and whose children went to school with the Lockharts.
“He was a fair mayor. He was interested in the borough and the residents.”
Lockhart was in charge of the Brentwood Firecracker 5K race during his tenure as mayor, Garase said. He always was there to return calls and answer residents' questions, she said.
As mayor, Lockhart oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Brentwood police department.
“We had a great working relationship,” police Chief Robert Butelli said. “He understood how the operations work internally.... We never had a serious disagreement.”
The mayor, too, mostly handles public relations for the borough and gets a lot of the complaints, he said.
There were times, Lockhart said, that he disagreed with others in the borough, but it was because he was fighting for what he believed in, he said.
“If it was peaches and cream all the time, you'd be wondering when is something going to go wrong,” Lockhart said.
For him, it wasn't about the number of years in office, it was about serving the residents.
“Will I come back? It's a possibility,” Lockhart said.
For now, he will stay busy as a real-estate agent for Century 21. Working with foreclosed properties as many as 35 miles away, the former mayor still won't have much free time on his hands.
“This is the time to get out — leave on a good note,” Lockhart said.
His three children and 10 grandchildren, too, will be sure to keep him busy, Lockhart said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.