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Consultant reached past politics to people

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 11:26 p.m.
Mark L. Zabierek.

In the nearly 30 years since Mark Zabierek moved from the Boston area to become the communications director for former Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri, he gained a reputation as a masterful political consultant.

But his true mission was helping the less fortunate, his friends said.

“Mark was one of the few people I've come into contact with who really understood government and politics, especially Western Pennsylvania politics,” said John Chapman of Greenfield, who met Mr. Zabierek shortly after he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1985.

“But his work with Salvation Army and youth organizations was absolutely as meaningful, if not more so,” Chapman said.

Mark L. Zabierek of Elliott died of cancer on Saturday, June 8, 2013. He was 58.

In addition to operating a successful marketing and consulting company, Mr. Zabierek had run the Salvation Army's annual Christmas dinner program since 2007.

“When he started with us, we were down to serving meals at three locations instead of the six we previously had,” said Jerry Johns, the Salvation Army's director of social services. “But Mark was so well-organized and had such a persuasive manner that he was able to help our volunteers serve meals to more people than we had in the past. And every year he'd be out there on Christmas Day, making sure things ran smoothly.”

Mike Dawida, head of nonprofit Scenic Pittsburgh who is a former state senator and Allegheny County commissioner, said Mr. Zabierek was instrumental in his Senate win.

“I was the longest of longshots to win that race,” said Dawida, who was in the Senate from 1989 to 1996. “But Mark was a brilliant tactician with sharp instincts for politics. He never asked me what I wanted to get out of being elected. He asked what I would do for folks if I won.”

Mr. Zabierek's concern for others led him to work with a mentoring program operated by North Way Christian Community Church's campus in East Liberty.

“Mark was a strong advocate for kids and really provided us with some great ideas on the best way to help them,” said the Rev. Bryan McCabe, a North Way pastor. “He served as mentor and would join the kids when they went out on things like community cleanup projects.”

Mr. Zabierek is survived by his mother, Marilyn Doyle of Philadelphia; three brothers, John of Philadelphia, Peter of Montreal and Paul of San Francisco; and three adult children, Alexandra of Cambridge, Mass.; Brie of Manhattan; and Matthew of Elliott.

Funeral services will be private.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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