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Uniontown city government icon stepping down

| Sunday, March 3, 2002

"Everybody depends upon Grace."

That is Uniontown Mayor James Sileo's testament to the job Grace Giachetti has done as city clerk, as she prepares to retire. Giachetti will end 41 years of service to the city, 25 years of it as city clerk, on March 15. Her retirement marks the end of an era for Uniontown.

Giachetti served five mayors prior to Sileo, including the late J. Watson Sembower and the late Eugene Fike, Bob Jones, Paul Bortz and Charles Machesky. She said she worked well with each mayor, although each had his own management style.

Current city officials note that most residents have no idea just how important the city clerk's office is to the daily workings of government.

"All the business runs through the city clerk," said Uniontown Councilman Robert Cerjanek, who as director of accounts and finances has worked closely with Giachetti.

Giachetti handles the payroll and all the employee pension and retirement plans. She also works with state auditors and with the city solicitor. She helps council draw up the budget and prepares the agenda for council meetings.

For 25 years she has sat at the head of the table during council sessions, both as the governing board's secretary and as a calming influence.

Over the years, Giachetti said she has remained neutral in her working relationships with mayors and their boards of four council members who haven't always agreed. "I have five bosses," she said.

Giachetti said she has had to be flexible in scheduling her workday because the mayors and council members could be demanding bosses. "When they want something they want it now," she said.

Giachetti has also put a human face on municipal government. "I'm the liaison between (elected officials), the public and the employees," she said.

With her soft-spoken demeanor, it's hard to imagine Giachetti raising her voice, but she claims to have a temper and said "sometimes you have to yell back."

Giachetti said she never imagined she would play a role in city government. After working for a plumbing supply business for a time following her graduation from Uniontown High School, the company's owner recommended Giachetti for a bookkeeper position with the city. Giachetti was named city clerk in 1977, after the sudden death of the person who had held that position. "I was the only one who knew the job," she said.

She said her proudest achievement has been her continuing contribution to keeping the city running, and she is quick to share the credit with coworkers.

Although noting that nobody is indispensable, Cerjanek said that Giachetti's departure is going to leave "a real big void." When her retirement was announced at a recent council meeting, he said that he was accepting Giachetti's resignation with his deepest regret. "It's been an honor and a privilege to work with her," Cerjanek said.

Giachetti barely had time to talk last week as she tried to tie up loose ends, toting a bulging file folder that gave an indication of the paperwork that is part and parcel of government. "I have 41 years of things left in my desk drawer I really have to clean up," she joked.

She said whoever council chooses as the new city clerk will "have to be dedicated to the job and to the people." Her advice to her successor is "to be patient."

The longtime public servant is leaving her position with some mixed feelings.

"I will miss the employees and dealing with the public," she said. "But I just think it's time for me to move on."

Giachetti is also looking forward to the future. "I've worked since I was 17. I 've never really not had a schedule," she said.

Now that she will have time to herself, she plans to travel, including a trip with a friend to Italy.

Giachetti sits at her place at the head of the city council table.

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