Al Kosol of Heidelberg said he agreed to fill a one-year unexpired term on borough council in 1999, but ended up serving 14 years.
He and council President Raymond Losego, who was on the board for 12 years, were presented Dec. 17 with golden keys to the borough in appreciation of their service by Mayor Kenneth LaSota.
Mr. Losego did not win re-election. Mr. Kosol decided to retire.
"I thought I would only stay a year," Mr. Kosol said.
His tenure on council began four years after his retirement from Dominion, an energy and natural gas company.
As head of the roads committee, Mr. Kosol dived right into a multiyear project to reconstruct many of the borough streets that were in poor condition.
The roads were in such bad shape that from 1999 to 2002, he and the other borough council members served without pay, donating their $60 a month reimbursement to the road fund.
After an initial contract in 1999 wasn't properly completed by the contractor, Mr. Kosol said he quickly learned the in and outs of road reconstruction and contract compliance.
L. R. Kimball Engineers, the borough engineering firm, Ginny McIntyre, borough secretary at the time, and the officials at PennDot were a big help to him, he said.
"I was out there every day with Kimball Engineers," he said, checking on the progress of the road reconstructions.
"I found it very interesting and learned a lot," he said.
Soon the focus on rebuilding the roads started to pay off.
To date, 25 roads have been rebuilt and some that were rebuilt more than 10 years ago are holding up well, with no-potholes, he said.
The borough had another problem with unpaved alleys, and Mr. Kosol was able to work with PennDot in what is called the Agility Program.
PennDOT repaved three alleys, he said, in return for the borough plowing snow at the Greentree Road-Route 50 intersection, and cutting grass on the intersection's traffic island.
"The program was a big help to the borough," he said.
His toughest days on council were in the aftermath of the 2004 Hurricane Ivan flooding that destroyed many homes and businesses in the close-knit community of 1,300 residents.
"I was working 20 hours a day, helping people clean up from the flood damage," he said.
There weren't enough volunteers to help with the cleanup, so he even pitched in working on the trucks that were hauling away the debris.
'It was sad to see everything people lost, wedding pictures, old high school yearbooks — things that couldn't be replaced," he said.
His wife, Dolly, ran the flood disaster center for the borough on Ellsworth Avenue at the time, distributing clothes, food, and other donations to people who lost most of their possessions in the flood.
She also helps with the borough's recreation committee and with staging community events like the annual Oktoberfest in Heidelberg Park and the Memorial Day celebration.
They both come from big families. Mr. Kosol was the youngest of 10 children, and Dolly Kosol came from a family with 14 children, he said.
In a way, the borough has become part of their extended family, but he said he is ready to start traveling. He wants to go to Georgia and Florida to visit family members he hasn't seen in a while.
He said a key to the success of council over the past 14 years was hiring a full-time borough manager, Joe Kauer, and filling the vacant position of police chief with Vernon Barkley, after the retirement of James McIntyre.
"We didn't care who they knew, were related to or where they lived. We wanted to hire the most qualified," he said.
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer, firstname.lastname@example.org.