PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Borough Council bid farewell to three exiting members, the fire chief and a retiring firefighter at last Monday's meeting.
Donna Lellock, Robert Reesman and Roger Steele attended their final meeting last Monday, as three new members will join council. The term of Punxsutawney Fire Department Chief Paul Hense expires at the end of the year, and Lindsey firefighter Joe Gianvito is retiring from active duty.
"We're not losing these people, as they will continue to serve the community in different ways," council President Susan Glessner said.
"No person or organization is judged by just one thing; the list of accomplishments by Punxsutawney Borough Council for the last 10 years is extensive," she said, citing work on the Riverwalk; the Punxsutawney Area Community Center; the Thomas Barletta Memorial Skate Park; work with SPLASH on the George C. Brown Community Pool; Harmon Field; Record Avenue restoration; the Monkey Steps; and projects on North Main Street and Carter Avenue, among others, such as partnerships with IUP, the Rails-to-Trails Association and ATA.
"To be a borough council member requires personal sacrifice,” she said. “Punxsutawney is a better place because of the three of you. I am proud to not only call them my fellow council members, but I also call them friends."
On behalf of Mayor James Wehrle, who was unable to attend the meeting, Glessner presented proclamations to the outgoing council members and firefighters.
Reesman thanked Punxsy residents for giving him the privilege to serve for eight years.
"I tried to be independent and make good decisions on the borough's behalf," he said, also congratulating new council members Michele Lorenzo, Eric Story and Robert Santik.
In his remarks, Steele — a 1987 Man of the Year — said he moved to Punxsy in 1983.
"I raised a family here; they're now raising a family here; and I'm teaching a grandson to drive here,” he said. “My payback has been for 20-some years to the Historical Society (and) Redevelopment Authority to insure the borough had a place for industry to call home, Proform and BFG and the others.”
Steele said that after battling health issues after smoking, “I'll now have more time to take better care of my health, my family, and I appreciate having that time now.”
Also, in her remarks, Lellock — a council member since 1998 — said she ran for council when the opportunity presented itself, after years of wanting to try.
"I was really glad when I had the chance to be elected a member of council, and I appreciate everyone's support including current and past council members," she said. "The borough employees have been the greatest, and I appreciate all of the help they have given us and making our jobs easier."
While presenting proclamations to Hense and Gianvito, Glessner said, “Firefighters are a special type of person: Dedicated, courageous and completely selfless. Saying thank you doesn't seem to be enough. You have our very deepest gratitude.”
Hense, a department member for almost 40 years, described himself as a person of few words – until the siren sounds.
"I want to thank everyone for your support," he said. "I want to thank council and the council when I was chief 10 years ago."
In his remarks, Gianvito — also a member of the Old Home Week committee — recalled his pride in joining the fire department in the footsteps of his father, the late Tony Gianvito.
"It was a special time in my life, and I don't regret any of it," Gianvito said. "Thank you for a wonderful 37 years of serving you and for your continued friendship."