Three things you will never see Susan Morgans without: lipstick, her travel coffee cup and her black leather work organizer.
She’ll get to drop one of those things as she retires March 8 as Mt. Lebanon’s public information officer and editor in chief of Mt. Lebanon Magazine. True to form, she has a ski trip booked to Colorado the next week. Skiing, reading and walking her German Shepherd, Navajo, are among her favorite ways to relax, as is spending time with her husband, Hal, their four children and seven grandchildren.
“The one constant in all of Susan’s work is her love for Mt. Lebanon,” says Municipal Manager Keith McGill. “Everything she has done during her tenure has been driven by and is reflective of her love for our community. That’s a quality that comes from the heart and one that has immeasurably benefitted the municipality.”
A Mt. Lebanon native with a background in journalism and English teaching, she started as a freelance writer for Mt. Lebanon Magazine in 1981, when the publication was brand new: black and white, with 26 pages of short features.
Fast forward to today: Morgans is the editor in chief of the award-winning, full color Mt. Lebanon Magazine, and she is the public information officer for the municipality, a promotion she earned from a field of 100 applicants in 1997. Under her leadership, Mt. Lebanon Magazine has become the flagship in an entire quiver of municipal public information offerings, including websites, social media, newsletters, push alerts, on-demand video view of municipal meetings and more.
Most important, during her career, her efforts have saved taxpayer dollars and informed residents on how their hard-earned money was being spent.
As staff liaison to both the historic preservation board and community relations board, Morgans worked with municipal staff and community volunteers on many projects, including the “Living with Styles” House Fair and Trolley Tour, the “This Town Would Be Different Without…” awards events, the “Best Neighborhood” contest parties and the regional “Good Design” workshop, in cooperation with the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh. Thanks to her efforts, residents can get up close and personal in the Mt. Lebanon Residents Academy and more than 4,400 homeowners live in the National Historic District she helped to coordinate.
A lyrical writer and editor, her focus on writing about homes has helped to keep property values high by showing residents how to plan safe, aesthetically pleasing, historically sensitive renovation. She directed the design, fabrication and placement of new community entrance signs and published two books: Living with Styles, a profile of municipal architecture, and The Way We Were, a history book.
Among the public information campaigns she led: PAUSA (People Against Underage Substance Abuse); capital campaigns for the public safety center, municipal building and veterans memorial (for which she personally secured a $220,000 grant from Duquesne Light); S.A.F.E. (Stop Addiction for Everyone); anti-litter, lock your cars, save the post office, save the T stop and respect diversity. To top it off, she gave Mt. Lebanon its slogan, “A Community With Character.”
She has worked with countless community groups including: the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, the Denis Theatre Foundation, Mt. Lebanon Village, the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, the Mt. Lebanon Community Foundation, the Women’s Club of Mt. Lebanon, Mt. Lebanon Junior Women’s Club, the Press Club of Western Pa., Earth Day in Mt. Lebanon, Plein Air Mt. Lebanon, Art in the Park and Outreach Teen & Family Services.
Her work on the popular annual report consistently won awards from 3CMA and Government Finance Officers Association. Her office is filled with other bling, including an armful of Golden Quill awards, the Great Alumni Award from Mt. Lebanon High School and the “Women Celebrating Women” award from the Pennsylvania Commission on Women.
This fall, the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon named her a “History Maker” at its annual awards gala. That’s the kind of recognition that means the most to her, she said at the time, “because it’s from the community.”
Never one to hold a grudge or be frightened off course, Morgans also doesn’t suffer those who present her with bad grammar (Out, passive voice!), sloppy work, faint praise, or apple-polishing. As she departs from her coffee-stained office (from the aforementioned mugs that never stay shut), it’s safe to say no one has defended this magazine’s honor and quality as fiercely as she has.
“As municipal manager, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and experience of working collaboratively with Susan to make Mt. Lebanon “’A Community with Character,’” McGill says.