Former Monroeville manager Silka takes helm at Robinson

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Jeff Silka plans to start fresh in Robinson.

The former Monroeville manager began a new job Monday as manager in Robinson.

Mr. Silka recently resigned from Monroeville, after seven months on the job, amid conflict with some council members over a police employee decision.

Robinson commissioners voted 5-0 on March 20 to hire him at a yearly salary of $83,500.

Samuel Abatta, chairman of the Robinson commissioners, said the Monroeville situation did not sway his opinion that Mr. Silka is qualified to manage Robinson.

"He's a highly skilled individual, and he'll be a fantastic fit for us," Mr. Abatta said.

Mr. Silka, 46, has about 11 years of experience as a municipal manager, including in his hometown of Johnstown and other communities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

A certified economic developer, he spent six years as executive director of the Somerset County Economic Development Council.

While Robinson contains about half as many residents as Monroeville, both communities contain major shopping malls and serve as commercial hubs.

"It's very important to maintain businesses because if you become complacent, you can get a lot of empty buildings pretty quickly," Mr. Silka said. "Maintaining the business levels and expanding those are definitely part of any municipal government."

Robinson interviewed four candidates and chose Mr. Silka to replace Aaron Bibro, who resigned to become manager of Hatfield, Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Also in March, Robinson commissioners changed their legal counsel, appointing the Plum law firm of Bruce Dice -- who serves as Monroeville's solicitor -- to replace Goldberg Kamin & Garvin LLP of Pittsburgh. Commissioners said it was coincidence that the township's new manager and attorney both have ties to Monroeville.

Mr. Silka has signed an at-will employment agreement with the township similar to the one Mr. Bibro had worked under, commissioners vice chairman Jesse Forquer said.

In general, an at-will contract allows either the employer or the employee to end the job relationship at any time.

Mr. Silka started as Monroeville manager in July at a salary of $90,000.

He resigned in January, saying a group of council members gave him an ultimatum to either remove Doug Cole as Monroeville police chief or lose his job as manager.

Monroeville council members approved his resignation Jan. 31, and they agreed to give him a $67,592 severance package.

In his application letter to Robinson, Mr. Silka described his short tenure and settlement in Monroeville as being "due to a difference in opinion over a personnel decision with members of the council."

Mr. Forquer said that some Monroeville officials recommended Mr. Silka for the Robinson job.

"As far as I'm concerned, his experience in Monroeville will maybe help him deal with some of the things we have to deal with," Mr. Forquer said. "So he's battle-ready."

Mr. Silka holds a master's degree in public affairs from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

In 2009, he earned certification as an economic developer through the Washington, D.C.-based International Economic Development Council, a nonprofit membership organization.

He lives in Monroeville with his wife, Carralee, and their 12-year-old son, Christopher.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:


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