Derco wants another term in Youngwood mayor’s seat
Youngwood Mayor Joan Derco discovered how much she is respected and loved after she fell while attending a state conference earlier this year.
Her mailman learned about her influence, too.
Derco, 82, received hundred of cards after she fractured her pelvis and suffered other injuries when she fell in her hotel room in April while attending the Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs annual conference in State College.
“I got over 200 and some get-well cards from people all over the state,” Derco said. “Even the mailman was shocked. It was a lot of cards.”
Derco uses a walker to get around now, but turns to a wheelchair for longer trips or those times when she seeks added stability.
She actually fell a second time this year, from her wheelchair, after hitting a bump. She broke her nose and bruised her face and knees.
“I’m getting better,” she said. “It just, as you get older, it takes longer.”
After her convalescence, Derco made sure she got up to speed on what was happening with borough government.
“I didn’t miss too much,” she said of council business. “It was tough the first couple months. I tried to stay into everything. I don’t like missing anything.”
Derco described Youngwood as a place where “everybody knows everybody.”
“It’s very neighborly and watchful,” she added. “Everybody’s concerned about the neighborhood.”
Derco has been involved in her town her entire life.
“I was born here, not in a hospital in Greensburg. In Youngwood, at that time, everybody got born at home,” Derco said.
She loves being mayor, an office she has held for 17 years. Before becoming mayor, she served nine years on council.
“I like people,” Derco said. “People are so interesting. They really and truly are. And I’d say 98 percent of them are nice, good people.”
She said she was the first woman to run for mayor in Youngwood, and the first to win — a feat others believed impossible, including her opponents.
“Well, I said, ‘If I don’t make it, what do I have to lose? I’m still on council.’ They lost. I didn’t,” Derco said.
Although she only votes when council has a deadlock, Derco believes serving as mayor gives her the chance to be more in touch with residents.
“Being mayor, you can listen more to the people, and it seems like they talk to you more,” Derco said. “And I can voice my opinion, and a lot of the time I do.”
Youngwood is improving but, like all communities, the borough has struggled with problems, including illegal drugs, Derco said.
“I’ve seen a lot of change in the borough in all my years,” Derco said. “Actually, it’s progressing, with a shopping center moving in (Youngwood Commons on Route 119), and I look for it to continue to go forward.
“Drugs are a problem in every town. I don’t have a solution, except everybody has to keep their eyes open. It has to be a town effort to report the drugs.”
Absentee landlords who do not screen renters are a contributing factor for illegal drug activity and other problems, she said.
Derco was named 2013 Mayor of Year by the Association of Mayors of Boroughs of Pennsylvania.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I was totally shocked.”
The retired register nurse and 1950 graduate of Youngwood High School said she doesn’t know who nominated her.
She is the mother of five children, four of whom live in Youngwood. A son lives in Pittsburgh.
Her daughter, Diane Derco Schaefer, serves as borough secretary.
“It’s very nice. I don’t interfere with her, and she doesn’t interfere with me,” Derco said.
She gets together on Sundays with her brother, John Ciampini of Youngwood.
“After Mass on Sunday, it’s routine — my house or his house,” she said.
They were born on the same day but in a different year.
“We’re a year and 15 minutes apart,” she joked.
“We went all through school together. We have a bond between us that I think we can almost feel one another’s feelings,” Derco said.
She said she would like to continue as mayor.
“If the good Lord wills it, I’ll run for another term,” Derco said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or email@example.com.