CRANBERRY TWP — When Jerry Andree first took the reins as Cranberry Township manager in 1991, the township was home to about 14,000 people, Route 228 was a two-lane road and many of the businesses that called Cranberry home hadn't been constructed.
Three decades later and after helping steer the town's growth — more than 30,000 people live in Cranberry, Route 228 is a major thoroughfare across the county and the town is a business hub — Andree is set to retire at the beginning of 2021.
“Obviously I'm approaching 31 years being with Cranberry Township, and it's been the most fulfilling professional experience I've ever had, with an awesome community,” Andree said. “I just couldn't have imagined, when I came in 1990, where we are in 2020. I've been blessed by working for enlightened, progressive elected officials who get it and understand local government and what needs to be done to move it forward.”
Andree's colleagues on the board of supervisors, who have worked with him for anywhere between a handful of years to nearly three decades, describe him as an indefatigable, passionate and visionary leader.
“He truly is an example of a leader and provides the leadership for this community, works to implement the vision, and he has been so much a part of that,” said Dick Hadley, township board chairman. “When I think of Cranberry, I think of Jerry Andree and all the hard work he's put in throughout the years, the personal sacrifices he's made to do such a great job.”
Supervisor Bruce Mazzoni said he frequently jokes that Andree “is the CEO of Cranberry Inc.” given the vision with which he's directed the township's growth. One example, he said, was implementing traffic impact fees for new developments, placing Cranberry as one of the first municipalities to do so.
“Jerry's very efficient, very reliable, just a visionary as far as things go. I know recently, with the tunnel, Jerry was talking about how that was the vision 25 years ago, and through his leadership it happened,” Mazzoni said. “It's identifying things and taking advantage of opportunity to make those things happen.”
His input to the township has, his colleagues said, always gone above and beyond. Supervisor Bruce Hezlep remembered a bad snow storm six or seven years ago when firefighters staffing the station returned from a call at about 5 a.m. and started making breakfast. Hezlep texted Andree to see if he would join them for the meal.
He told the crew, who were doubtful Andree would show up, “'if I know Jerry, he's up top at public works making sure there's enough snow trucks and salt,'” Hezlep said. “I texted him at 5:15 and at 5:20 he pulled in. ... If there was something in the township that needed leadership, he stepped in and filled that role.”
Andree's stepping-up extends beyond functions within the government. Hadley said his vision came not just from how he saw the township but also from speaking with virtually anyone within the community about what they'd want to see and what the township was trying to accomplish.
“What I personally admire about Jerry Andree is his willingness to volunteer his time, to get out into the community, understand the community, be a part of it, whether it's his church or the seniors' clubs or Westinghouse, and sit down with people and hear what they have to say and communicate to them what the township's trying to do,” Hadley said. “His day wasn't done until he reached out and touched somebody.”
Township supervisor Mike Manipole said that while Andree's accomplishments in terms of infrastructure are staggering — “you look around and it's all Jerry Andree's stuff that you see,” he said — his impact on the people around him and those in the community is just as, if not more, valuable.
“The way he entrusts the people around him, the way he teaches them, is second-to-none,” Manipole said. “His real strength is empowering residents to have a voice in our community. I think the greatest thing he's done is he's taken the time to share even the smallest bit of advice or support, or even jumped in and helped. People have never forgotten what he did for them, personally or professionally.”
Andree said he feels that same way about the residents of Cranberry, who have stepped up to help each other in times of need and crisis.
“Infrastructure comes in two things, both the physical infrastructure and the human capital. I think the human capital of this community is beyond reproach. You have the Community Chest, the Rotary Clubs, the CUP,” he said. “This community has a very strong human infrastructure that is very engaged, very supportive, like the Community Response Team during the pandemic. The physical infrastructure helps support that, but it's all about people, the people infrastructure, and I couldn't be prouder.”
The supervisors used a number of words — professional, visionary, sincere, hardworking — to describe Andree, but they all agreed that he's impacted the community in a way few, if any, others have.
“Working with different supervisors and working with the state and working with the federal government and working with the county government, I can't think of a man who has done more for his community than Jerry Andree,” Hezlep said. “I'm glad he'll still be in the community, but I'll miss talking to the guy. He's genuine, he's a good Christian man, he's a friend.”