Baldwin manager honored for local government work
South Hills residents know all too well the frustrations of road closures.
A dark cloud appears in the sky, it starts to rain and the next thing you know, Streets Run Road has flooded again.
Behind the scenes, Baldwin Borough leaders saw it, too. Vehicles were being trapped and something had to be done.
That's when they went to battle.
Last August, the borough, in an effort to curtail some of the flooding, removed more than 110 truckloads of dirt and debris from an 800-foot stretch of Streets Run Creek.
Baldwin Manager John Barrett talks about the ways the borough “fought like heck” with the Department of Environmental Protection just to get a permit for the project.
The way he spearheaded the project as a borough administrator was so impressive, that Local Government Academy President Art Tintori felt Barrett should be recognized.
Barrett last month received the Joseph A. James Memorial Award from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.
The award recognizes municipal government officials for a lifetime of exemplary governance or management, improving professionalism in municipal government and making a significant contribution to municipal government services.
“He's a really good borough administrator. He's professional, has integrity, all that stuff that makes him stand out,” said Tintori, who also serves on Green Tree Council. “But I thought that this issue was important enough to be noted and get some recognition for him.”
Barrett, who has served as Baldwin's manager since 2010, previously worked as a manager in Murrysville for three years and as a director of programs for the Local Government Academy for four years. He also worked in the nonprofit sector.
At 45 years old, Barrett said he was “shocked” to received the award, noting he's “not done yet.”
As he looks back over his time at Baldwin thus far, there's a lot that's been accomplished in the last eight years, he said. Although he credits the “team” he works with, which includes council and administrators for the work.
When he talks about the time he's been in Baldwin, he notes the artwork that still hangs on his walls from his first day from his then 1 and 3 year old daughters. Today, they're 9 and 11.
“I've been working here long enough to grow human beings,” he said, with a laugh.
That means, a lot has gotten done in the borough, too.
One of the big projects he points to is the Colewood Park equalization basin meant to hold excess sewage during heavy rains. That project turned into a project to renovate and upgrade the park.
“We took lemons and tried to make it into lemonade by turning it into a park project,” Barrett said.
With large projects going on in the borough, Barrett has spent a lot of time in the community on people's couches talking to residents about the details.
“I also feel like we're getting pretty good at responding to water emergencies,” Barrett said, with a laugh.
Flooding has been something borough leaders tackled during his time there.
Also, enhancing professionalism in the borough government was a priority.
A new project Barrett is working on is to coordinate an inclusion/diversity program in the borough to reach out to its ever growing refugee population.
“We want to embrace them into the Baldwin community,” he said.
All of the borough's staff has gone through cultural sensitivity training.
“It's still very much a developing project,” he said. “We've got to do something.”
Barrett also remains involved in the Local Government Academy.
He helped write one of the scripts for a newly elected officials mock council meeting.
That stood out to Tintori.
“When you get somebody who is quality like him, you want to make sure he gets recognized,” Tintori said.
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.