BP’s Mayor Cliff Morton reflects on 16 years in office
After 16 years of service, the mayor of Bethel Park is stepping down to pursue other activities.
“I feel myself being pulled in too many directions,” Cliff Morton said. “I’m too old for this. I had to cut something out.”
The mayor, who in addition to his municipal duties, is active with several community organizations, also has a job he enjoys at the Paul L. Henney Memorial Chapel Inc.
Although he had no political aspirations when he was cajoled into running by then mayor Alan Hoffman and two council members, Morton now has the distinction of being Bethel Park’s longest serving mayor.
The one-time English teacher’s only political experience before running for mayor was serving a six-year term on the Bethel Park School Board in the 1970s.
“I was home just minding my own business,” said Morton, who retired from U.S. Steel in 1998.
Not wanting to run for the office, Morton thought his wife would back him up in turning down Hoffman’s proposal.
“I thought ‘This will put an end to this,’” he said.
To his surprise, Morton said, his wife thought him running was a great idea.
The first to serve four full terms, Morton decided earlier this year not to seek a fifth term.
“Cliff is a true leader,” said council President Tim Moury. “(He) has always made himself available to all the residents of Bethel Park to listen to any problem or concern that they may have. Cliff Morton and First Lady of Bethel Park, Joan Morton, have represented Bethel Park well over the last 16 years.”
During a tenure that included many improvements and additions to the community, Morton was instrumental in instituting many programs designed to improve the quality of life and to involve the residents.
Hands down, his proudest accomplishment was initiating the 90-Plus Club, Morton said.
During the monthly council meeting, the mayor publicly recognizes residents over the age of 90 who are celebrating birthdays that month. He also sends them a birthday card, and each October members of the club meet for a birthday luncheon.
‘I just love these people,” said Morton. “It means so much to them and they are so gracious and so thankful.”
Morton talked fondly about the gatherings of the group and about introducing two centenarians.
“They talked about all the people they both knew,” he said.
The soon-to-be retired mayor says he intends to continue his activities with the 90 Plus Club even after his official duties end.
Also among the programs Morton initiated as mayor is the Trolley Beatification/Municipal Parks Planting Program.
Through the program, volunteer gardeners have planted and continue to tend the beautiful gardens at the light rail stops along Brightwood Road and throughout municipal parks.
Morton personally recruited the volunteers and also oversaw the funding of the program, which included securing donations, said Judy Miller, Bethel Park assistant manager.
The mayor also recruited local scouts and residents to paint all the street sign poles orange, identifying the streets throughout Bethel Park.
In addition, Morton instituted the banner program, which involves placing seasonal and decorative banners on the utility poles along the municipality’s main thoroughfares.
The Holiday Lighting Display Contest, which began under Hoffman, was modified by Morton to include a winning residence from each ward instead of just one winner for the whole municipality.
Volunteers judged displays throughout the municipality and each January the jovial mayor presented awards to the winning families.
“This program has been a big success and has brought back the interest and excitement in holiday lighting throughout the community,” Miller said.
Not only interested in beautifying the scenery, Morton has also been a supporter of the arts and the groups that bring cultural events to the residents. Among those programs are the Tower Concert Series, which provides free outdoor concerts at the Bethel Park Community Center throughout the summer, and the Heritage Players Theater Group.
It was during Morton’s tenure as mayor that the community center and gymnasium were constructed and Millennium Park was developed.
Morton actively supported local students’ academic and athletic programs successes and recognized those successes during his remarks portion of the monthly council meeting.
Aside from his duties as mayor and serving a term as president of the Allegheny County Mayors Association, Morton has been active in other community activities and organizations. He was one of the founding members of the Bethel Park Community Foundation, and, a veteran, Morton serves as chaplain with the Marine Corps League South Hills Detachment 726.
Morton said even though he is retiring from public office next month, he intends to stay active in the community.
“I’ll be around,” he said.