LOWER SALFORD >> Assistant Township Manager Mary West has retired after 47 years as a township employee, but she’s not moving away.
“This is my community,” she said.
“I live in Lower Salford and I plan on staying in Lower Salford Township,” West said. “Obviously, I’m always going to care about Lower Salford Township, even though I’m leaving this position.”
Friday, April 6 was her last day on the job, but it’s not the end of her involvement in Lower Salford Township affairs.
At the April 4 Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors meeting, she was appointed to the township’s Agricultural Security Area Advisory Committee.
Farming is an important part of the township’s heritage, she said.
“The farming industry is and was what made Lower Salford a very special community and it’s important to preserve the farms that are still here,” West said.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, township officials, including West’s mother, Loretta Romanowski, who was township manager at the time, and the township board members were very visionary in their land preservation efforts, West said.
“That’s why Lower Salford has today the incredible open space network that we have because these people back in the day when there was lots of open space in Lower Salford Township realized that it was important that we permanently preserve it,” she said.
The township officials literally sat at farmers’ kitchen tables until late hours of the night negotiating the purchases that make up the open space and agricultural land preservation programs, she said.
“She’s been here 47 years providing service to all the residents of the township, to all the supervisors, to everyone she worked with, and above and beyond the call of duty,” Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Gifford said of West at the board’s April 4 meeting.
“On behalf of all the residents, if I can speak for all of them, I would like to simply say thank you, Mary,” Gifford said, “and, on a personal note, I’d like to say a super big thank you.”
In an interview the following day, West said her mother, who is now 89 and still lives in Lower Salford, started working for the township as a clerk in 1968 before becoming the township secretary, then the municipality’s first township manager.
“In 1971, when I was graduating from high school, she asked me if I was interested in coming in and just helping her with clerical work, for probably just a few months until I started college,” West said, “and it’s 47 years later and I’m still here.”
West, who was a ballet dancer and dance teacher, went to Montgomery County Community College with plans of becoming a dance therapist while also continuing her job with the township, she said.
“I got married, I had children,” West said. “At that point, I already had many years in at Lower Salford Township and it was a good place to work.”
It was a day job instead of the nights and weekends that the dance jobs required, leading to her eventually dropping the dance jobs, she said.
“Who wants to be away from your family at night and weekends?” West said.
As a township employee, she worked with her mother for 25 years before Romanowski’s retirement, West said. Her husband, Winnie, who retired two years ago, also worked for Lower Salford, spending 33 years in the public works department, she said.
West’s primary duties in the township office included administering the processing of development plans and subdivisions, managing developer escrow accounts and being a liaison between the board of supervisors and the park board and historical societies, she said.
During the time she worked for the township, the municipality had three offices, she said.
The first was in Alumni Hall, by the pond on Alumni Avenue. The township offices were on the second floor and the police station was on the first floor, she said.
The YMCA now uses that building, she said.
“Then, from there, we moved across the street to the building at the corner of Main Street and Alumni Avenue,” she said.
The township offices were there for about 25 years before moving in 2001 to the current offices (379 Main Street, Harleysville), she said.
After seeing an Angel Tree at a store, she asked for and received permission to start one at the township offices, she said.
“That was very important to me because I just felt that we were in a position here to help needy families and children in our area and I found that the residents loved it,” West said.
Angel Trees, which are displayed at the Christmas holiday, contain lists of gifts for children who will be the recipients. Donors can pick the lists, then provide gifts.
“Back in those days, people used to come into the township office for everything,” West said. “Now people read a lot online and you don’t have people coming back and forth quite as often.”
Lower Salford no longer has an Angel Tree, but the police department now helps collect items for Toys for Tots, she said.
“We are, most of us, very blessed around here and it’s a good feeling when you can help somebody,” West said.
“That’s what we do here. We’re here to help the residents,” she said. “People come in with a problem and their problem becomes our problem.”
The township can’t always solve the problem, but can give guidance and help, she said.
“Nothing is more important to people than their homes and their families, so when they come in, it’s a problem that means a lot to them,” West said.
“That attitude was something that my mother really promoted,” West said. “She cared about everybody.”
That also became part of her own work ethic, West said.
Lower Salford has bought historical properties in the township and appreciates the work done by the volunteer historical societies, she said.
It’s important that the township be a good steward of the land it has preserved and add to and take care of the trees, she said.
“Every tree is important to me,” West said. “It’s a living thing and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Recycling is also important, she said.
Retirement means she will have more time to spend with her family, including her husband, mother, two daughters and four grandchildren, she said.
Some of the other things she looks forward to having more time for include reading, gardening and cooking, she said.
“I really just want to enjoy the simple things,” West said. “Do it while you’re still feeling good.”