Darrell Rapp of Regent Square believes he has what it takes to help improve Swissvale.
Rapp, who has lived in Swissvale Borough since 2005, moved from Florida for a job and fell in love with the neighborhood.
“The Pittsburgh area is big enough to have a lot of great things big cities have, like nice parks and activities, as well as museums, sports, and universities," he said. "It has lots of great things but it’s not so big of a city that it’s overwhelming."
Swissvale has a mix of restaurants, resources, and activities on Braddock Avenue, he said. The playground is an especially important resource to Rapp’s two daughters, ages two and five. Rapp is a stay-at-home father.
He initially became involved in the improvement of Swissvale while working on activities with the . The organization was completing a street tree inventory in Edgewood, and he helped to bring that program to Swissvale in 2006. Rapp has been attending borough council meetings for the past five years.
“I think that I can bring my own set of experiences and my own ideas to make the borough operate as efficiently as possible,” Rapp said. “The borough does a lot of good things, but some things could be done better and I’d like to be able to make that happen.”
With an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Penn State University, Rapp brings a mix of knowledge, skills, and experience to the table with a background in engineering.
“In terms of graduate work, I learned that you can’t do everything by yourself. You have to rely on others. As part of a municipality, we have to rely on the expertise and labor of other people to do everything a municipality does,” Rapp said.
Rapp wants to bring outside expertise and resources into Swissvale. As a main council initiative, Rapp would like to bring projects associated with the local universities into the borough. In his teaching work, he has seen class and thesis projects in which students have the opportunity to do very practical work.
“There are people getting graduate degrees at the universities and those students are looking for projects. Why not have those people do their thesis projects to help Swissvale?” Rapp said.
In addition to the universities, Rapp wants to get Swissvale more involved with other collaborative organizations. One example is the Turtle Valley Creek Council of Government. The TVC COG is an inter-municipal organization that represents more than one community. The COG helps multiple small communities to collaborate on big projects to get them done more efficiently.
The Local Government Academy is an organization that exists to promote excellence in local government. Rapp has signed a pledge to excellence with the academy as something he commits to do. The pledge is committed to life long learning and additional education for local politicians.
“I know that I know a lot about some tings, but in terms of the responsibilities an elected official has, I am not an expert. It’s a one stop shop for helping to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local government,” Rapp said.
One of Rapp’s major goals for Swissvale is efficiency. To him, it is most important to try to “make Swissvale more efficient, and more effective at providing the services and make improvements for the community and its residents.”
“What I don’t see happening is people taking the time to think about ‘Where do we want to borough to be in five or 10 years time,'" Rapp said.
Rapp wants to see the community think about conceptual visions, as well as what types of obligations the borough has on a long-term basis. A major concern of Rapp’s is infrastructure.
“What is the water authority’s plan for the next five years of replacements?” Rapp said. “It is usually less expensive to plan for what you’re going to do rather than have the water mains break and determine what you’re going to do while doing emergency repairs.”
Rapp believes he has the characteristics he needs to succeed at the role on council.
“I have a willingness to ask questions and a willingness to approach other people to ask questions and try to learn more,” Rapp said.
Whether it is connecting organizations or universities to the community, Rapp is looking for any way to do things that could be more effective than the current operation.
“I’m open to those collaborations that can come by starting to ask questions,” Rapp said. “If you need to accomplish a project, maybe there’s a resource out there to help, but if you don’t start asking the questions, it won’t help. If you ask the right questions, there is potential to bring those resources to help out the community."
Rapp is open to comments and questions and can be reached at Rapp4Swissvale@gmail.com.