Donora native discovers adage about coming home inaccurate

| Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009

DONORA - There is a saying that claims "You can never go home."

Jerome Stokes has never bought into the theory.

Stokes, who was born in Donora 56 years ago, has watched his more than 30-year career come full circle, bringing him back home as the borough's administrator/secretary.

Stokes, who is more than halfway through his first year on the job, says it's nothing like any other position he has ever held.

"I come from Corporate America," said Stokes. "I've worked in big business for over 30 years and this is quite different than anything else I've ever done before."

Stokes was hired June 16 and took over for Warren Cecconi. He started out learning on the job and that the process is never-ending.

"There was a learning curve, but it kind of went away after a couple of days," he said with a smile. "I'm dealing with a lot of different personalities (on borough council) and most of them have been here for a very long time."

He says he has enjoyed working closely with Mayor John Lignelli, but added, "I'm still not comfortable calling him 'Chummy.'"

Stokes said that Lignelli calls him "Boss."

"He calls me 'Boss' and I call him 'Chief.' But I don't like him calling me the boss very much," he said.

"He knows it, but he still does."

Stokes went to high school at the Donora campus of Ringgold High School and, after graduation, entered Robert Morris University in 1974.

He began his professional odyssey after graduating from the Pittsburgh college.

"I did a whole bunch of stuff," he says, smiling, when asked about his career.

He started working for Corning Glass in Charleroi and then was transferred to the company headquarters in Corning, N.Y.

He then took a job with Westinghouse Electric in 1979 and worked with the company through several name changes and mergers until 2004.

After that, he began doing consulting work for Alston, a company in New York located just 60 miles from Corning.

"I guess I came full circle," he said. "I was back nearly where I started in New York."

Then the job opened in Donora during a period that he had been spending a considerable amount of time in the borough, caring for his mother.

So he decided to apply.

"I really like it a lot," he said. "It's exactly what I thought it would be, which is challenging, but different.

"No two days are the same."

Stokes plans to stick around longer on the job than his predecessor, who was doing the job filling in until a replacement could be found.

"It's nice to work in your hometown," he said. "It's fulfilling. And, being that it is so much different than what I was used to doing all my life, I am enjoying the challenge."

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