Ina Jean Marton said the most fulfilling part of being mayor of White Oak is working one on one with residents to help resolve problems.
"If I can't help them directly, I can direct them in a positive way to someone who can be of help to them," she said.
Ms. Marton said she is also glad to be able to work with the White Oak police chief and officers, who she said are very concerned with the safety of White Oak's residents and keeping the borough safe.
Ms. Marton became interested in politics while serving as a 16-year-old volunteer at the voting polls. She said she was first asked to run for office when her children were young, but she turned down the offer.
Then, in 1995, when one of her children had graduated from high school and the other was still in high school, she ran for council for the first time.
She served on White Oak council for 11 years and was elected mayor in 2004.
At the conference of the Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association in July in Lancaster, Ms. Marton said she was very surprised to find she had been selected as the organization's Mayor of the Year for the whole state.
The mayors' group usually has a second presentation of the honor in the mayor's hometown. And in August, Keith Moss, mayor of Duryea in Luzerne County, drove more than four hours to a White Oak council meeting to present Ms. Marton with the award.
A number of other politicians, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, and Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey spoke in recognition of Ms. Marton's accomplishments.
During her political career, Ms. Marton has also received a number of other awards, including the 2002 Greater Mon Valley Women of Achievement Community Leader Award, the 2005 Community Champion Award in recognition of her volunteer service, the 2011 Wesley Spectrum Services In-Home Child and Family Services Humanitarian Award, and in 2005 the Jefferson Award given by the Post-Gazette, WQED Multimedia and the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Ms. Marton also serves as a board member or volunteer for 16 organizations, including Carnegie Library of McKeesport, McKeesport Hospital Foundation, Angora Gardens, UPMC Community Advisory Council, the American Cancer Society, the McKeesport Relay for Life, White Oak Rotary and the auxiliary of White Oak American Legion Unit 701.
She is also president and founder of the White Oak Animal Safe Haven no-kill shelter. Building the shelter was probably the accomplishment she is proudest of, she said.
When Ms. Marton started to raise funds to build the shelter in 2000, local animal lovers concerned that there was no other no-kill shelter in the area "came out of the woodwork" to donate almost $75,000 for shelter construction, she recalled.
By September 2003, the shelter was "up, running and paid for," she said.
The shelter can accommodate up to 18 dogs and as many as 80 cats, she said. Since its beginnings, shelter volunteers have placed more than 8,000 animals in new homes, she said. Donations, fundraising and adoption fees pay for day-to-day operations.
In 2008, Ms. Marton was widowed when her first husband of 43 years, Richard Marton, died after an eight-year battle with cancer.
She later remarried, and her husband, Robert Zitcovich, was present with her daughter Dana and grandchildren at the August council meeting. He "beamed with pride and joy," she said, when she received the Mayor of the Year award.
"He's been very supportive of whatever I'm doing," she said.
When asked what advice she would give others on how to have a happy and fulfilling life, Ms. Marton didn't hesitate: "Don't be afraid to tackle your goal, and be honest and fair in working at everything you do."
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer; firstname.lastname@example.org.