Most people don’t decide to enter politics for the first time in their 40s, but County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s passion and love for his family and western Pennsylvania motivated him to make that leap. Now, after more than 18 years in public service, he still embraces and relishes his role working with others to make the county a great place to live and work, and he’s bullish on the region’s future. When his children went to school, he and his wife, Cathy, began to engage in issues related to the schools and zoning and quickly became interested and engaged in other local government matters. Rich also thought his problem-solving skills as a local business owner would translate well to government. So, he began working on the initiative that created Allegheny County’s current home rule charter, and he hasn’t stopped working to make the region more affordable, accessible, desirable, and economically prosperous since. Like so many other parents living in Allegheny County in the 1990s, Rich was tired of seeing the area’s best and brightest move away to pursue jobs elsewhere. He was worried his own children might eventually leave and that he wouldn’t get to regularly see them, or future grandchildren. So, after the ballot initiative passed, and the newly created County Council seats were established, he decided to run for office. In 1999, he was elected to the inaugural County Council, representing District 11 which contained a mix of Pittsburgh neighborhoods and other municipalities. He spent 12 years on Council and was elected by his peers as President four times. In 2011, he ran and won the election to become the third County Executive. He officially took office on January 3, 2012, and he’s currently in his second term. Under Rich’s leadership, Allegheny County has focused on economic development and job creation to great effect. Over the past few years, and for the first time since the end of the Pittsburgh region’s industrial era in the 1970s, the county is managing growth instead of decline. Young people no longer are moving away, and the county’s population is increasing thanks in part to the area’s excellent quality of life and its low unemployment rate and cost of living as compared to other major cities. It also boasts a diverse and thriving business community, especially in the fields of technology, health care, energy, and financial services. The county has become known around the world for its outstanding colleges and universities and for its development of the next generation of technology, which has brought more intellectual capital and brainpower to the region. Allegheny County’s recent improvements to public health and recreation also have been factors in attracting talent and jobs to the area and in making it a great place to raise a family. Under Rich’s leadership, the Allegheny County Health Department has a new director, a new organizational structure and has implemented meaningful changes. The county’s nine parks and over 12,000 acres continue to be upgraded and improved. County buildings, facilities, and vehicles became greener and more sustainable. And the Live Well Allegheny campaign was launched to improve the health of our county’s nearly 1.3 million residents. Another big part of Allegheny County’s economic development strategy has been the modernization and growth of the Pittsburgh International Airport and the region’s public transit system. The airport now offers nearly double the number of nonstop flights it did just four years ago, going from 37 to 72, and it services 17 airlines. The Port Authority has been stabilized, and it has exciting new leadership and a cutting-edge, real-time transit information system. A Bus Rapid Transit line between the region’s two largest job sectors (downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland) also is being developed. While making that progress, Allegheny County government has become more effective and efficient than ever. While on Council, Rich played a key role in the consolidation of county row offices. A top-to-bottom review of departments and functions in Rich’s first year as County Executive helped spot and improve inefficiencies and waste. Furthermore, six straight budgets have passed with no millage increases, the fund balance has significantly increased, and the county has produced considerable savings on bond issuances and seen its bond rating increase three times. Rich is delighted by the county’s sustained success under his leadership, but he would be the first to deflect credit. He believes achievement comes when we work together for the greater good of the county, and he says collaboration has been the “secret sauce” to solving the region’s toughest problems. To that end, he focuses daily on forming strong partnerships with elected officials at the federal, state, county and local levels, as well as with community leaders in business, labor, and philanthropy. Rich loves meeting and hearing from constituents. Known for his tireless work ethic, Rich is not one to be hunkered down in an office. As chronicled well on his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds, he is almost always on the move, attending numerous events around the region on a daily basis and constantly listening to and responding to the needs of county residents. Rich’s affection for and devotion to Allegheny County runs deep. Raised in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield-Garfield neighborhood, he graduated from Central Catholic High School and later earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a business minor from Carnegie Mellon University. After college, he left the area for a short time, but he didn’t stay away for long. In 1982, he returned to Pittsburgh and founded a water treatment services and equipment company. He also married his college sweetheart, Cathy, and bought a home in Squirrel Hill. He and Cathy, a pharmacist, have eight children: six girls and two boys.