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Its people make Butler a great city

Even though my time as mayor of the City of Butler has been relatively short, I have been asked again and again WHY I took on this role? Why am I so committed to our city and so willing to work hard on its behalf?

I think back on the memories a lifetime of residency in this city has brought to me. I think about all of those things that so many people still in this town or who have moved beyond its borders reflect on, that they believe made their childhoods unique.

What makes up a city? Is there some sort of checklist that determines our status? Is there a particular amenity that makes it “cool.”

Through my years of life, there were stores in the downtown area that I frequented. My mother worked at Montgomery Ward when it was still part of Main Street. At that time, national retailers had a presence downtown along with successful small businesses owned by local merchants. There were restaurants whose food I still miss from pizza to hot dogs, pasta to burgers. As a young man, I worked at a local furniture store during a time when there were four or five downtown. I shopped in no less than five men’s clothing stores.

We played at the playgrounds and flocked to them for neighborhood nights. We played ball and attended fairs, carnivals and parades.

I’ve shared these memories so many times with dear friends and casual acquaintances. It was a good time to grow up in this community. However, the question is, “Are these what made Butler the place that it was? Or when they go away, are we no longer a good place to live?”

The short answer: NO. It’s ridiculous to even think that way. This city has always been changing and will change more in the future.

Yes, we had nice stores. But for every Jay Shoppe or Hub, we now have a Benjamin Beetle or a Branded in Butler. Instead of the Hot Dog Shoppe, we dine at the Chop Shop. We dine and listen to music at the Butler Brew Works rather than Natili’s.

We still attend parades but now they’re bigger and better like the “Spirit of Christmas” parade. We make great times at Cruise-A-Palooza or the Italian Festival.

We still have playgrounds, we still have sports, and we make great music and art.There was a library when I was a kid. There’s a bigger and better one now.

My doctor and dentist were in town; they’re different ones now, but they’re still in town. We’ve replaced neighborhood nights with Foodie Fridays.

Names, faces and places may have changed, but there’s still a wealth of good things in our city with more coming every day.

Memories are strong, and they may prevent us from seeing that we continue to have a vibrant, fun, growing community. We have a strong foundation that will bring good things in our future.

So what makes this city great? Why do I work on its behalf?

Simple: people.

The people of this community are what makes it great.

We share successes and celebrations. When there is tragedy or a need, everyone comes together in support of their neighbors. We work hard to make the events happen, the businesses succeed. Just like we always did.

I’m not naïve; there ARE problems. We face an aging infrastructure. We need more affordable housing for young professionals. Our business base is expanding but it needs to expand more. We need to market that we have a willing and industrious workforce. I praise our recreational opportunities, but I know we need more.

Most of all, we need to open our eyes. We need to see what is in front of us every day in this community. We must realize that building on a foundation of positive energy will catapult us further ahead than being naysayers and approaching each endeavor, each project, each innovation with negativity and an attitude of failure.

The city wasn’t perfect when I was younger. There were problems. But there was a willingness to get beyond the problems, to find a solution founded in a belief that success was inevitable. The basics were and still are here. We need only reach out and maximize the experiences that are ours for the taking.

I believed in the community then, and I believe in it now. I believe in its people. I see a bright future where every amenity grows and amplifies this unique experience that is Butler, Pa. Another generation waits, ready to make even greater memories than the ones many already share.

People worked hard in the past to make Butler a great place, and I believe they work hard now. They are industrious; they are diverse. They are creative, artistic and musical. They are competitive, and they like to laugh.They are strong, loving, caring and dedicated.

American urban planner, educator and author Alex Garvin, said: "If you want to have a great city, you have to work at it.”

If there is something that has and will set Butler apart from any other city, let it be that willingness to “work at it.”

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