Two key components of Canonsburg’s renaissance era died last month.
Edward A. Kovacik Sr., executive director of the Canonsburg Renaissance Group, and Michael A. Gordon, a former borough code enforcement officer, were standouts among a dedicated group of people attempting to keep Canonsburg relevant in the 21st century.
Gordon’s tenure in Canonsburg was short but memorable. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he was a stickler for adherence to the borough code. While he always had compassion for residents who had inadvertently violated those codes, he was passionate about reigning in those who violated rules and regulations with abandon, especially if those violations adversely affected other Canonsburg residents.
Gordon often focused on sub-par housing, and he was effective and efficient in forcing owners to bring their structures up to standard. Moreover, he set the stage for what would become the borough’s full assault on dilapidated housing in later years.
Perhaps more importantly, he convinced officials to tighten and clarify existing borough codes.
Fortunately, Gordon had the support of the borough’s council. That was clearly not always the case with Kovacik.
Kovacik, founder, retired president and chief executive officer of Engineering Graphics Inc. of Canonsburg, was hired by the Canonsburg Renaissance Group both to raise funds and to be a liaison with council.
The Renaissance Group was an imaginative and independent organization that was meticulously focused on the town’s future. The group created both large- and small-scale improvement projects for the borough, many of them stunning in design. The plans were continually stalled, however, by a lack of funding and by a few cantankerous council members that believed council was the only borough entity entitled to outline its future.
The affable Kovacik fully enjoyed spreading the word about the Renaissance, speaking with key organizations and engaging with area business leaders, often convincing them to hop on the Renaissance bandwagon and to participate in its annual golf tournaments to procure much-needed funding.
As a successful businessman, Kovacik was fully aware of the importance of team effort. To that end, he also became a volunteer member of the Greater Canonsburg Economic Committee, America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame Board and the Western Area Career and Technology Center Advisory Board. He worked diligently with members of the Greater Canonsburg Chamber of Commerce, the Canonsburg Borough office and the Canonsburg Main Street program.
His eternal optimism seeped into every one of those organizations, and many believed Canonsburg would indeed soon become the standard of the “community of the future.”
But Kovacik, an amateur magician, could not magically alter the position of borough council, which did not appreciate any planning assistance (or, as they saw it, interference) from a citizen group.
On one occasion, Kovacik appeared before council with an empty brown paper bag and a ketchup bottle. He placed the bottle into the bag, flattened it, and the bottle disappeared. He never had the opportunity to finish the trick or explain the analogy. Suffice it to say, council was not amused.
Yet Kovacik – and the Renaissance Group – was significantly more crushed than the brown paper bag when council later publicly stated in a letter that it neither had nor wanted ties with the organization.
Soon afterward, a devastated Kovacik (along with several other movers and shakers in the borough) threw in the towel.
Today’s council appears to be more open to nurturing a community team effort in planning its future. One hopes that Renaissance’s original eye-opening plans, no doubt stashed in a filing cabinet, will be dusted off, resurrected and updated.
It would be a fitting, albeit belated tribute to the trailblazing efforts of Kovacik and Gordon.
And a bit of magic for the borough.