Keith McGill: from planner to manager

Mt. Lebanon’s newly appointed municipal manager, Keith McGill, doesn’t want to be a faceless nameplate on a desk.

“I intend to be visible to the community,” says McGill, 54, whom the commission unanimously appointed in January. “I want people to know who I am and feel like they can send me an email or ask me to get a cup of coffee. I want them to have a certain comfort level with me.”

Comfort is something McGill has with the municipality. He’s worked here since March 1997, when he became code enforcement officer, a good fit considering his background in real estate sales (he still has his license), contracting (he spent a summer flipping houses) and personal service (from the time he was old enough to work, he cooked, cleaned and go-fer’ed at Campiti’s Pizza in Dormont.)

In July 2002, McGill, who grew up on Sunrise Drive, was promoted to municipal planner. It’s impossible to drive through Mt. Lebanon without passing the millions of dollars in projects he’s shepherded, from the recent $18 million SpringHill Suites by Marriott to the $109.5 million high school renovation, to the construction of the Public Safety Center and the careful renovation of the Municipal Building. The Fresh Market, the Academy Avenue parking lot, the Levin Mattress retail center and a handful of multi-million dollar pharmacies are just some of the other projects he worked on. He spearheaded two municipal comprehensive plans, in 2000 and 2013, updated strategic plans, steered an update of the municipal zoning code and was responsible for oversight of the municipality’s geographic information system. He was the municipal liaison to the planning board and worked in concert with municipal engineers.

“After working with the municipality for nearly 19 years, we are eager to see Keith lead the staff and community into the next phase of growth and opportunity for Mt. Lebanon,” says Commission President Kelly Fraasch.

“He comes with real high integrity and work ethic, combined with his experience,” says Commissioner John Bendel, who was president of the commission when McGill was selected. Bendel noted that McGill’s experience working on the comprehensive plans gives him unique insight, since he worked with elected officials, members of the boards and authorities and residents—and needed to understand the views of each group—to put together the best plan for the municipality.

In McGill’s 14 years as municipal planner, he shepherded many projects from blueprint to brick and mortar, including the SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Washington Road. At left: former planning board chair Barry Long.

McGill, who will earn $122,000, plans to fill his former planning position this spring. He hopes to find a candidate with planning and administrative skills, much like he has, to be able to fulfil the duties of both a planner and an assistant municipal manager, a position that had been eliminated when Marcia Taylor retired in 2013.

School Superintendent Tim Steinhauer has worked closely with McGill for years, especially during the high school renovation, when a good relationship between the district and municipality was critical. “For many years, Keith has been a key player…and has provided insightful, respectful and positive guidance and advice,” Steinhauer says. “I have no doubt that he will continue to exemplify and lead our positive working relationship. He is an asset to our community.”

McGill graduated cum laude from University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor of science in psychology and minors in communications, economics and English. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and is certified with the Building Officials and Code Administrators.

“I care about the community. I was born here, raised here. I chose to raise my family here,” he says. He is married to Marcy McGill, the building manager of Pendale Towers, and has three grown daughters, Marissa and Karla McGill and Brianna Hucks. Even his mother, Ethel, still lives here. He loves the walkability, the excellence of the school district and the spirit evident at dozens of block parties every year. “We’re a community of neighborhoods,”

He is proud of the amenities the municipality provides. “We have a better level of service here than any of our neighboring communities. You call here; you get a person. I think we do so many things so well,” he says. On the top of his list are excellence in snow removal, vacuuming of leaves and the safety provided by the police and fire department. In fact, the recently promoted heads of all those departments are longtime employees, just like McGill: Public Works Director Rudy Sukal, Police Chief Aaron Lauth and Fire Chief Nick Sohyda.

He touted Mt. Lebanon’s financial stability and its staff. “We have a very talented, well-respected group of employees who actually care about the community,” he says. But McGill is quick to point out the residents are a major asset, including the hundreds who serve on municipal boards and authorities. “That’s all done without compensation. I don’t think you get that type of commitment in our neighboring communities.”

That said, “You should never stop trying to improve,” he says. McGill will be on constant lookout for ways to deliver services to residents more efficiently and cost effectively. He will continue to promote all the positives in our community to potential home buyers and ensure upcoming projects are of the highest quality since available land is rare here.

He realizes Mt. Lebanon is not perfect, citing recent controversy over such issues as the deer management plan and installation of artificial turf, two topics that caused rancor at public meetings and some negative attention from the news media. But he puts it in perspective. “If the two biggest issues we have in this community are deer and artificial turf, we’re probably doing better than most communities.”

He doesn’t have a lot of spare time for hobbies, but he does enjoy spending time outside, camping and fishing, something he did with his daughters when they where younger. He also holds a special affinity for Special Olympics. His brother, Brian, had Down Syndrome and died at age 12, when McGill was 21.

In the coming years, he will have big projects to lead, including a long-needed, multi-year, multimillion-dollar upgrade of the public works facility on Lindendale Drive. The work will need to be done with the center fully operational, creating a scheduling—as well as funding—challenge.

He also is looking forward to the Zamagias project of 46 condos at the municipality’s northern gateway on Washington Road, as well as other residential projects slated for McNeilly Road and Summit Pointe in Sunset Hills. His eye is on making those developments as top notch and in context as possible. “Everything we do here, I want to do to the best of our ability. Usually, you get only one shot at those things,” he says.

Challenges don’t bother McGill, especially those he hasn’t yet imagined. “In every challenge, there’s an opportunity,” he says. “You just have to identify the opportunity and take advantage of it.”