All-purpose mayor gets community service award
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As Heidelberg's top elected official, Mayor Kenneth LaSota routinely cuts ribbons at grand openings and conducts council meetings.
But 53 couples will remember the mayor for the rest of their lives as the person who performed their wedding ceremony, a power conferred upon him by the state municipal code.
"A lot of mayors won't do them because of the commitment in time," Mr. LaSota said. "But I like to do them because I get to do some talking and meet a lot of new people."
For all of his roles, the mayor this spring received the Community Service Award for 2010 from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
Mr. LaSota takes his role as the marrying mayor seriously. He has even gone so far as to take dancing lessons at Allegheny County Community College with his wife so he could improve his dance skills for weddings.
He has performed weddings not only at the Heidelberg Volunteer Fire Department but at settings as diverse as Mount Washington and Phipps Conservancy.
"My picture has been in a lot of wedding albums," he said.
The borough also benefits when the mayor performs a wedding.
Couples usually give the mayor a donation for performing the ceremony. He, in turn, donates the money to the recreation fund for movies in the park and treats for kids at the annual Heidelberg Halloween party.
Mr. LaSota he sees his role as mayor as more than performing weddings and presiding at borough council meetings. He goes to six or seven meetings a week to represent Heidelberg before various boards and government agencies outside the borough.
He is the borough's delegate to the South Hills Area Council of Governments, for which he is serving as vice president in 2011; Southern Basin Communities Group; Three Rivers Wet Weather Initiative; Route 50 Corridor Commission; and Chartiers Valley Long Term Recovery Team, which helped residents with housing, financial support, and rebuilding after the Hurricane Ivan flooding in 2004.
He also represents the borough at the Southwest Communities Chamber of Commerce, Allegheny County Mayor's Association and Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
The mayor said he is fortunate that, as a university professor, he has a flexible schedule that allows him to attend so many meetings, where, he added, he learns a lot.
"It's like getting a college degree," he said.
And he knows something about college degrees. While teaching geology and astronomy at Robert Morris University, he found time to earn master's degrees in secondary education and in instructional leadership.
The mayor also attends seminars and classes on topics related to local government, which borough manager Joe Kauer said has helped the borough in many ways.
Mr. LaSota's attendance, he said, has resulted in the borough receiving various grants and technical assistance provided for free that has saved the Heidelberg taxpayers thousands of dollars.
As far as the mayor is concerned, his award from the State Association of Boroughs was "flattering," but he said he would have attended all those meetings and seminars anyway.
"It's a blessing to be able to interact with so many people outside the borough," he said.
The mayor sees a bright future ahead for Heidelberg. Progress has been made in fixing the borough's roads, and a new municipal park was dedicated last year on the former site of an industrial scrap yard. Where once junk cars were piled, there now is an all-purpose athletic field, walking trail, gazebo, children's playground and picnic pavilion.
He said he has noticed many people have been putting additions on their homes and improving their property.
"Even a small borough can get things accomplished if you plug away," he said.
First Published August 4, 2011 5:36 am