From left, McKean County commissioners Cliff Lane and Tom Kreiner pose with Bob Esch, honored with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania with a Friend of County Government Award, and with commissioner Carol Duffy, who nominated Esch.

SMETHPORT — The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania has recognized Bob Esch of Bradford with its Friend of County Government Award for his numerous contributions in more than 20 years to improve county government through initiatives and new programs that improve the lives of McKean County citizens.

In her letter nominating Esch for this honor, which she read Tuesday during the brief ceremony in the courthouse rotunda, County Commissioner Carol Duffy said, “He has demonstrated a continuous commitment to the county as well as the region not only by supporting various priorities, but also as an individual who has generated community and local government support for the development of new programs and initiatives improving the quality of life for our citizens.”

Esch is a Navy veteran, serving from 1970-74.

After graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 1978, he joined American Refining Group Inc. in Bradford, working in all areas of the refinery as project engineer, production supervisor, plant manager and finally as a company vice-president, from which he recently retired.

The company’s vision included community leadership and supported Esch as he was a valuable leader and driver for workforce development in the region, Duffy noted. During his tenure, ARG was awarded the 2008 Governor’s Workforce Development Employer of the Year for Central Pennsylvania. Esch was credited for his time and effort spent on the Workforce Investment Board, and the late Harvey Golubock, ARG president, recognized him as “being a valuable leader who understands the critical importance of providing an educated and skilled workforce to local employers.”

Active in workforce and economic development in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Esch has served as chairman of the board of Futures Rehabilitation Center, the former ARG Federal Credit Union, vice-chairman and past chairman of the North Central Workforce Investment Board, vice-chairman of the Bradford Landmark Society Board, member of the Bradford Sanitary Authority, past chairman of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board Association, and past-chairman of the Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce. “As an industry representative, Bob was a longtime member of the executive board for the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission,” Duffy noted.

Recognizing Esch for advocating for our communities on issues related to industry, education and human services, Duffy said, “Bob has collaborated with multiple levels of government to communicate and support issues representing our most vulnerable citizens.”

Duffy lauded Esch for his all-inclusive approach that inspires involvement from local leaders and his insight into the needs of our community has helped increase community involvement in many initiatives.

He is a founding member of the Steering Team of Leadership McKean, the McKean County Collaborative Board, the Essential Emergency Support Training Program Advisory Board and Court Appointed Special Advocate program.

“Through his insight and passion, Bob has addressed a long-time need for a local community foundation and collaborated with local leaders, volunteers, business people and policymakers to develop the McKean County Community Foundation, of which he is the current president,” Duffy said. “Under their umbrella is the newly-formed McKean County Women’s Giving Circle.”

According to Duffy, “With his passion for children and education, Esch has served on the board of the Upper Allegheny Educational Consortia, Bradford Economic Development Commission, Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center and is an advocate for the Early Learning Center.”

Esch was also instrumental in the formation of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College and has most recently joined their board of trustees. Former Gov. Ed Rendell appointed him to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission where he served through the first term of Gov. Tom Wolf.

Although now “retired,” Esch continues to actively support the county through participation in the McKean County Collaborative Board and as board president of the McKean County Community Foundation and CASA of McKean County. Duffy stated, “At the onset of the current pandemic, Bob was immediately on the front line advocating for our most vulnerable and their needs. A COVID-19 Assistance Fund was created through the McKean County Community Foundation to benefit local non-profit organizations impacted by the pandemic.”

Duffy said she most appreciates Bob’s ability to listen carefully, provide insight and develop leaders in our community as he encourages everyone to “tell their story.”

“I have appreciated his support in my role as county commissioner, and I believe we share the same philosophy to keep trying to bring positive change for others,” remarked Duffy. “In particular, when advocating for children, Bob has stated, ‘If you reach only one, that’s OK because you have changed that child’s life forever.’ His ability to encourage others who work daily with difficult situations is admirable.”

Duffy noted this opportunity to recognize Esch also recognizes the many individuals who engage in their communities and the important role everyone plays supporting the priority of county government, the people we represent. “The outstanding contributions Bob Esch has made to McKean County absolutely qualifies him to receive the Friend of County Government Award,” said in her letter nominating Esch.

In accepting this award, Esch said, “Recognition belongs to the individuals who work day in and day out for the various county agencies. No matter what the agency, we are blessed with outstanding individuals.”

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