Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

Mar 13

Cranberry doubles down on volunteers

Posted on March 13, 2018 at 10:18 AM by Jerry Andree

It’s no secret that America’s volunteer sector has experienced a slow decline for at least the past 15 years.  Observers have blamed it on a variety of things: people being too busy with work, spending too much time online, stress from changing family patterns, more frequent relocations, maybe even becoming too lazy.  

Some of those reasons may be valid.  But there’s another explanation that those of us in Cranberry’s municipal government have been leaning toward: it’s that there hasn’t been sufficient investment in America’s volunteer sector.  Without resources, nonprofits don’t have the capacity to engage volunteers effectively.  

To attract and retain volunteers today, you need to place a high value the volunteer’s time, provide them with the tools and training their work requires, strive to respect their family commitments, make their continued involvement as convenient as possible, and show appreciation for what they have accomplished.  

All of this matters a great deal to Cranberry and to every other community that depends on the vitality of its volunteer sector.  Our athletic associations are an excellent example of what a strong volunteer commitment can do.  But it’s our volunteer fire company that may be most mission critical.  One of the core functions of any municipality is to respond to emergencies.  The Cranberry Volunteer Fire Company, CTVFC, is a key strategic partner in answering those 9-1-1 calls.  

Back in June of 2015, the Township and CTVFC saw the challenges that faced us in attracting and retaining volunteers going forward.  So we embarked on a Strategic Planning Process.  It was grounded in a commitment to maintaining a highly qualified volunteer fire and rescue force well into the future.  The most likely alternative – a full-time paid fire department – would have cost our taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Our planning process involved a group of residents, firefighters, outside experts and Township officials.  They examined every aspect of our current and future fire service needs.  It represented our best collective thinking, and it resulted in a strategic plan which our Board of Supervisors and CTVFC formally adopted in 2016.  The plan outlined a number of steps that needed to be accomplished.

I’m pleased to report that implementing those steps is now well underway.  Last year, the Township reorganized staff to devote four full-time professionals to support the fire company’s efforts.  Just this month, our Board demonstrated its commitment to the Strategic Plan by authorizing $2.1 million in physical improvements to our two fire stations.  And CTVFC, for its part, is completely restructuring how they operate, consistent with the Strategic Plan.

All of this may be a gamble; after all, the decline among volunteers is not just a local issue; it’s a national problem with complicated causes.  But after 27 years as Township Manager, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone bet against the collective wisdom of Cranberry Township’s residents. 

Dec 04

Jimmy Stewart and me

Posted on December 4, 2017 at 12:10 PM by Jerry Andree

In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, just as James Stewart’s character becomes despondent over a series of reverses in his life, an angel appears to show him an alternate reality – what the life of his small community might have been had he never been born.  And in that alternate world, people were very unhappy.  Children died, family members were institutionalized, businesses failed, people lived in overpriced slums, parks became cemeteries, and so on. 

Cranberry is not the movie’s fictional Bedford Falls, nor am I James Stewart.  But, just as in the wartime film, there are some genuinely depressing issues, including the pain inflicted by today’s opioid crisis, that weigh heavily on my mind.  So as I drive around the Township, I sometimes wonder what Cranberry would be like in an alternate world where nobody intervened to guide and direct it into becoming what it is today.

For more than 25 years now, I’ve had the privilege of serving this community under the direction of a visionary Board of Supervisors.  By the late 1980s, they clearly saw that change was coming and knew that if they didn’t step up and steer that growth, it would roll right over them.  So they stood up, crafted a plan, enacted ordinances, imposed impact fees, and used the authority they were given under state law to mold the community into an attractive, efficient, and high-value place to live, work and play.  

That wasn’t easy to do.  Many Western Pennsylvania communities, in their zeal for growth, have given developers free rein to do whatever they wanted, no matter its impact on traffic, revenues, aesthetics, safety or anything else.  That was what developers expected from Cranberry, too.  But they were wrong, and a number of spectacular conflicts resulted.  

Cranberry’s growth is still taking place.  While we would like to believe the tools to shape that growth are now well-established, it is still premature to hoist the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.  But as I drive around the Township, I see evidence everywhere of our Board’s foresight.  As a Cranberry resident myself, I am able to do just about everything my family needs right here – shopping, dining, healthcare, recreation, church and much, much more. 

Cranberry has become a major employment center with approximately 22,000 good jobs.  We are an important regional retail center.  We are a regional recreation center with tournament-level athletic fields and more on the way.  And we have become the residential community of choice for a constantly growing number of individuals, couples and families from throughout the tri-state area.  

On Thanksgiving morning, I saw more than 1,000 people either running in the Turkey Trot or playing in one of the many Turkey Bowls taking place in our three parks.  They were playing and running and laughing and enjoying life, building friendships and strengthening neighborhoods.  So, like James Stewart’s character, I wondered what it would be like if those parks had never been built.  Would those social relationships ever happen?  Would neighborhoods and families have any place to come together?  Would children have the opportunity to participate in team sports?  I shudder to think what life here would be like without that critical component of our infrastructure.

However, It’s a Wonderful Life has a happy ending.  Stewart’s character realizes, despite his struggles, how much good he has been able to bring to his community over the years.  And the townsfolk rejoice at his turn of fortune.  I can appreciate that, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to play a role in advancing Cranberry’s own wonderful life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about our community’s growth.  You can reach me at

Sep 21

The SV idea incubator

Posted on September 21, 2017 at 11:42 AM by Jerry Andree

It doesn’t look like a classroom.  The Creativity, Innovation & Research Center, or CIRC space in Haine Middle School, actually seems more like something you’d see in a Silicon Valley company that flaunts collaboration and creativity.  Cutouts of clouds hang from the ceiling.  Café-style booths and conversation pit couches nest in its corners and border its walls.  A TV studio-type green screen lies hidden behind a red curtain.  Electronic tablets are everywhere.  Murals of hills and forests decorate its walls.  And there’s a floor-to-ceiling treehouse, complete with a child-size tunnel and bright yellow slide, right in the middle of the room.  

Haine School’s CIRC is actually one of several such imaginative spaces created by Seneca Valley in its K-6 schools.  It is a collaboration of the school district with InventionLand, an O’Hara Township-based company started 20 years ago around a proprietary process to help clients in a variety of industries, including education, to create innovative products, processes and solutions.  

The CIRC project provides strong evidence of just how far Seneca Valley has been ratcheting things up lately.  Not only are they implementing a Master Plan to enhance their physical assets and improve the learning environment for our children, they are also implementing new academic initiatives to enhance the educational services they provide.  But it’s not some sort of elite program reserved for the highest achieving children; every child from Kindergarten through sixth grade meets at least once a week in the new facility.

Earlier this week, along with members of our Board of Supervisors, I had the opportunity to see it for myself.  And what we saw was more than just an elaborate classroom.  What we saw was an exceptional level of energy and enthusiasm emanating from the CIRC.  And it didn’t just come from the students; the school’s highly motivated and dedicated teachers were just as excited. 

I was so impressed that I went back to the school that evening for a public open house, along with my wife – herself a former teacher from a family of teachers – and she was even more impressed with what she saw.  Of course, it came too late for the two of us or for our own adult children to personally benefit from.  But we can’t wait for our grandchildren to have this amazing educational opportunity.  

So kudos to Superintendent Tracy Vitale and Assistant Superintendent Sean McCarty for leading this effort.  And thanks to the Seneca Valley School Board for their continued investment in one of most important roles of local government – educating our young people to be thoughtful, creative, and independent adults who will help to ensure a healthy, vibrant future for Cranberry Township.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about our public schools.  You can reach me at