CRANBERRY TWP — Supervisors said goodbye to the Jerry Andree era last week, appointing Dan Santoro as the township manager.
Santoro began his tenure at the township in 1991. He spent 20 of the past 30 years with the municipality and has served as deputy township manager since 2017.
Supervisor chairman Dick Hadley said the appointment was made “without reservation,” particularly with Andree helping the township with his own succession plan.
“I don't know how many conversations we had over the years about succession planning and how to move forward without missing a beat whenever someone leaves the organizations, and you have preached that principle,” Hadley said. “And you have certainly achieved that here with the selection of Dan Santoro.”
Santoro started in Cranberry the same year as Andree. His prior role as the zoning and code enforcement officer in California Borough in Washington County was very different, he said.
“I didn't know much about Cranberry, other than its reputation at that time was still one of lots of growth,” Santoro said. “Having grown up in the Mon Valley, south of Pittsburgh, coming to the north and the kinds of growth and the things that were going on here in the north were drastically different from the communities I grew up in and worked in at the time. That was right after the decline of steel. I grew up in a steel-mill town, and it was like night and day.”
Santoro took over as director of the planning department in 1993. He left the job in the late 1990s, but came back after 12 months.
In 2007, Santoro joined the private sector. For a decade, he worked as the Pittsburgh-area manager for two Harrisburg-based consulting businesses.
While he gained valuable experience, it didn't scratch his municipal government itch, where he could see long-term impacts.
“I wanted to try my hand in the consulting world, and had success,” he said. “In that time I left, I had some other experiences, and I got to see how other municipalities worked. It helped me grow and have some experiences, but I really enjoy the opportunity to work directly for a municipality and have that local impact.”
In 2017, the deputy manager position opened — it was a perfect fit.
“I can't fill those shoes, and I wouldn't try,” Santoro said of his predecessor. “But I know the path those shoes were walking on.”
That path was altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One challenge facing the township is “remaining financially prudent and paying attention to the fallout of the pandemic, and where will we be in this coming year's budget, from a financial perspective,” Santoro said. “What does that mean for 2022 and beyond? That is probably the most significant challenge that we need to pay attention to, and make sure we continue to practice good fiscal management.
“This is impacting a lot of small businesses and restaurants and service industry folks. What can we do in order to help those folks get back up and running?”
That doesn't mean there aren't future developments to which the township can look forward. Infrastructure improvements over the past decade have made it possible for the township to continue experiencing growth, and keeping Cranberry an exciting place to live is part of the board of supervisors' — and Santoro's — long-term goals.
“I think there's some real, exciting things going on in Cranberry, with regard to growth and development,” he said. “I think we really are focused on mixed-use in development. We see some of the exciting stuff going on across the street here with Meeder.”
For the board and Andree, there was no one better for the position.
“I'm so excited for Dan to take over,” Andree said. “He's been a great friend, colleague and professional supporter. Dan and the team that surrounds him will take us to the next level.”