Commissioners Column: Behind the Scenes

Every Thursday in my childhood, my dad would drop me off at the public library in Marion, Iowa, on the way to cash his paycheck and run errands. I would scurry into the library with last week’s bundle of books, excited about next week’s reading opportunities. Reading under an oak tree waiting for my dad to return, I was blissfully unaware of all the planning, budgeting, fundraising, operations and creative work behind the scenes that made my reading journey possible. This experience stoked a love of reading and writing benefitting me throughout my life.

In the few short months I have enjoyed working as a commissioner, I am struck by all the behind-the-scenes activity by so many people that makes our community and experiences like I had with my own public library as a young girl possible. We are blessed with numerous boards and authorities, and countless people who volunteer to serve on them that bring our public institutions like our library to life. Our boards and authorities spend countless volunteer hours getting their arms around issues or planning for the future which assists our community but also the commission in so many ways. The annual selection process for these positions, which the commission undertakes in March, showcases the breadth of talent, education and skill we have at our fingertips here in Mt. Lebanon.

And our staff is literally second to none. Commissioners Flynn, Ranney and I dedicated some Saturdays over the November, December, January and February months to attend a Local Government Academy course for newly elected government officials. Many of our staff were presenters in their field and it became very apparent to us that Mt. Lebanon staff are shining examples of good government at its best. The staff also spent an entire Saturday in early January reviewing each department’s function with us so that we could have the best start possible. They are truly giving of their time and efforts for our community. We are fortunate to have them.

I am also so pleased to serve with my fellow commissioners. Each of us brings a unique set of skills to the table. We truly complement each other in our expertise and styles while sharing a common passion for making Mt. Lebanon an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

The COVID-19 crisis has certainly been a baptism by fire for this new commissioner, but it has also been an opportunity for our community to rise to the challenge and find opportunity in crisis. Our staff has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep our community safe, provide information, and bring their knowledge and expertise to issues while finding innovative ways for the community to continue its work. The library going completely virtual in a very short time, along with Neighborhood Aid, a collaboration with Dormont led by Commissioners Grella and Ranney to connect volunteers with those who need assistance, are two examples of expertise, ingenuity and resiliency that we will need for the road ahead.

Over 15 years ago I moved to Mt. Lebanon and it was the first place that felt like home after living in many cities across the country since I left Iowa in 1995. I could never put my finger on why Mt. Lebanon felt like home when all the other places had not. My time as a commissioner, sharpened by the COVID-19 crisis, has led me to that answer. As the famous Pittsburgher Mister Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers−so many caring people in this world.”

Mt. Lebanon is full of helpers and carers, who give to us every day in so many ways, in the celebrated and the mundane−and THAT is what makes Mt. Lebanon special, what makes it home to those who were raised here and those of us fortunate enough to adopt it. And that is why, no matter the challenge, we will take it on, and rise above. Take care, stay safe and stay strong, Mt. Lebanon and keep bringing your talents to your community. That little girl under the oak tree needs you now more than ever; her future will indeed be furthered by your passion and contributions.

-Leeann Foster, Ward 3 Commissioner