John D. Turack, Executive Director/Community Development Assistant
John serves as the Executive Director for the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County, a partner program of Penn State Extension. As the Executive Director, John is responsible for managing the non-profit with its Board of Directors. He is a Community and Economic Development Assistant with Penn State Extension.
John is a native of Westmoreland County, and previous to working for Extension, served as a Township Supervisor in Washington Township, Westmoreland County; as the Main Street Program Manager for a non-profit revitalization organization in Blairsville, Indiana County; and earlier in his career as a private-sector retail manager.
John has a BA in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, numerous local government-related certifications, and has completed graduate-level classes with the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Geography and Regional Planning.
John’s focus as an educator is in providing technical assistance to municipalities, community leaders, and non-profit organizations in the areas of community and citizen engagement, community visioning, and both strategic and municipal comprehensive planning. He serves on Extension’s statewide educational program teams delivering educational programming related to Economic and Community Development (https://extension.psu.edu/community-development)
John has served as a board member for the Allegheny County-based Local Government Academy (LGA), as a board member for the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth (WEDIG), as a board member for the Westmoreland Historical Society, and as an Associate Director for the Westmoreland Conservation District.
John lives on a small family farm in Washington Township. He and his siblings are the third generation of his family on this land, and he enjoys stewardship of its fields, woods, and of the 200+ year-old homestead stone foundation remnants still to be found there.
Leanne Griffith, Office Coordinator/Grant Writer
Leanne works with the Smart Growth Partnership Board of Directors and Executive Director and assists with grant writing.
Prior to joining Smart Growth, Leanne worked as a middle school teacher for Indiana Area Junior High School. She holds a B.S. in biology and general science education from Penn State University and a teaching certification from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She previously worked as a dairy farmer, as the conservation educator at the Westmoreland Conservation District, and as the adult education supervisor for Private Industry Council and Education Technology Institute.
Leanne makes her home in Greensburg/Hempfield Township with her husband Dan, a Nutrient Management Specialist / Agricultural Conservation Technician for Westmoreland Conservation District. They have a daughter, two sons, and two grandsons.
Board of Directors (Year joined board)
Since 2000, the Board of Directors has provided organizational and policy direction to the Smart Growth Partnership.
Allen G. Kukovich, President (Founding Member 2000)
Allen Kukovich is a Westmoreland County Attorney. He has served formerly as Executive Director of the Power of 32 Regional Visioning Project, a two-year process that provided an opportunity for every resident of the 32-county, four-state region to participate in creating a shared vision for the region’s best future.
Kukovich also formerly served as Director of the Southwest Regional Office of the Governor. Prior to this position, Kukovich served as State Senator, and represented the Southwest region in the General Assembly for 27 years, serving from 1977-1996 in the House of Representatives and from 1996-2004 as a State Senator.
He received his B.A. in Political Science from Kent State and J.D. from Duquesne Law School. Kukovich has received more than 90 statewide awards and national recognition for his dedication on behalf of families and children. He and his wife, Nancy, have one daughter, Alexandra.
Virginia Stump, Vice-President (2013)
Virginia McCracken Stump is a General Certified Appraiser and Realtor. Virginia is also self-employed as an independent appraiser and as a sales agent with RE/MAX Realty Access, Irwin. Virginia previously worked for USDA, Rural Development, where she managed the Greensburg office and served as a commercial loan and grant underwriter and appraisal specialist.
Virginia received her Bachelor and Master of Business Administration from Seton Hill University; her Master Certification in Renewable Energy from St. Francis University; and her appraisal education from Appraisal Institute and American Society of Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers.
Virginia serves as the Secretary of the North Huntingdon Planning Commission and as the Treasurer of the Westmoreland Land Trust, a land conservation organization. She also serves as a North Huntingdon Township Commissioner.
Kim E. Miller, Treasurer (2005)
Kim Miller is currently the President of Deksolar, LLC a solar power provider in Westmoreland county. He is also a farmer focusing on regenerative agriculture by raising cattle on grass. He has previously been a developer interested in building green and walkable communities.
He is a current board member of the Westmoreland Conservation district and is Board President of Greenforge, Inc. He is past Board President of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Laurelville Camp and Conference Center. Miller received his B. S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. He is married with four adult children.
Joseph Bleehash, Secretary (2018)
Joe Bleehash serves as the Director of Facilities and Security and an adjunct instructor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. He is a practicing registered architect in Pennsylvania and 21 other states and earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kent State University with an emphasis on architectural typology, preservation and sustainability.
He holds a Master of Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public & International Affairs as well as LEED BD+C sustainability credentials through the United States Green Building Council. He also serves as a board member for the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association.
Betsy Aiken (2017)
Betsy Aiken works as the Executive Director of the Westmoreland Land Trust. She has previously worked in a strategic planning consulting practice, as the Chief Administrator for the Municipality of Murrysville, and as the Quality Assurance Manager for Hamill Manufacturing Company (a precision manufacturing company).
Ms. Aiken received a B.A. and an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and has been a resident of Murrysville since 1976. She also serves on the boards of the Murrysville Trail Alliance, the Citizens Advisory Board for Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation, and Pennsylvania’s Trails Advisory Committee. She is an advocate for placemaking, trails and walkable communities, open space conservation, and strategic land use planning.
Jack J. Brown (2016)
Jack Brown is the Director of Community Services at Westmoreland Community Action (WCA). As Director He manages several programs that directly address Community and Economic Development including, The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, Homeownership Programs, Agency Tax Credit Programs and WCA’s Social Enterprise, Shop Demo Depot/American Architectural Salvage.
Since 2000 Mr. Brown has managed the construction of over 60 Single family for-sale affordable houses throughout Westmoreland County. Mr. Brown has over 30 years of construction experience and holds professional certification as a Housing Finance Development Professional. He also serves as an Advisory Board Member/Construction and Planning For Keystone HOPE Development LLC.
Jeffrey A. Landy (2012)
Mr. Landy is the Borough Manager of Mount Pleasant. He received a B.S. degree in Business Administration and Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Laurel Highlands YMCA Board, the Mt. Pleasant Free Public Library Board, and the Westmoreland Brownfield Board.
Mr. Landy created the successful Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival in 1986. The festival is the only festival in the state of Pennsylvania honored as a permanent addition in the Library of Congress Local Legacies.
As the Borough Manager of Mount Pleasant, Jeff Landy has redefined the position. He has integrated his administrative, financial and marketing skills to lead Mount Pleasant and to continue making the borough a vibrant community.
Greg Primm (2012)
Mr. Primm is Township Manager for Allegheny Township in Westmoreland County. Prior to Allegheny Township, he served as Township Manager for Penn Township, Butler County for nineteen (19) years as well as Borough Manager for the Borough of Falls Creek, Jefferson County for 2 years.
He has served as a municipal training instructor for the Department of Community and Economic Development in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors since 2001, teaching several different courses through the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services. Mr. Primm also serves as an instructor and course developer for the LTAP-PennDOT program instructing public officials throughout the commonwealth, and as a Peer Consultant through DCED’s peer program.
A dedicated public servant, he currently serves as President of the Apollo Ridge School Board as well as a Board Member for the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth. Greg and his wife Beth have 2 children, Jared and Kirsten.
Joseph Szczur (2013)
Joseph Szczur has been the District Executive in District 12 since March 2004. Mr. Szczur is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in engineering. He is responsible for nearly 800 employees covering the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The four counties of Westmoreland, Washington, Greene and Fayette Counties, have an operational budget of $300 million annually.
Under Mr. Szczur’s leadership the District has been certified in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 “Project Delivery” which gained national recognition. Mr. Szczur also serves on the University of Pittsburgh advisory visiting committee and he is the Chairman of PennDOT’s District Executive Council.
Michael A. Walsh (Founding Member 2000)
Michael A. Walsh joined DCNR as the Deputy Secretary for Administration in June 2015. In this role, Mike is responsible for all budget, administrative services, human resource and information technology support for the department. This role includes providing direction and oversight to the Bureaus of Administrative Services, Human Resources and Information Technology Services; developing, updating and implementing the agency Continuity of Operations Plan; developing and managing strategic funding plans; ensuring strategic IT operations and plans are implemented; overseeing DCNR efficiency and cost saving ideas and plans; leading agency wide projects; preparing and presenting a variety of reports on tactical and strategic issues; and briefing and advising the Secretary on priority issues and initiatives.
Mike most recently provided consulting services through his firm, the Walsh Strategy Group.
Walsh has served as the Chief of Staff at Harrisburg Area Community College and as Deputy Secretary for Administration for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Prior to this position, Walsh served as Director of Administration at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Before joining the Gaming Board, he was a Special Assistant to Governor Rendell, and also served as the Executive Assistant to then-Secretary of Administration Robert Barnett. Walsh formerly served as Director of Policy and Communications for then-Senator Allen Kukovich.
He received the partnership’s Distinguished Service Award in 2003. Walsh holds a Master of Public Management degree from the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a B.S. in Political Science from St. Vincent College in Latrobe. He and his wife live in the Harrisburg area.
Dr. Whit Watts (2012)
Professor Watts taught in the department of Geography and Regional Planning at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he specialized in the areas of site planning, urban design, land use policy and law. He received his undergraduate degree in urban studies from the University of Wisconsin and his graduate degrees in landscape architecture and environmental planning from the College of Architecture at Virginia Tech.
Over the years he has worked in support of community-based organizations and local municipalities on a variety of recreation, housing, traffic management and land use initiatives. His current areas of research and practice include urban horticulture, civic engagement and urban design.
Thomas Beresnyak (2016)
Tom is the Penn State Extension Client Relationship Manager (CRM) for Area 6, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Indiana, Westmoreland, Washington, Greene and Fayette counties. With nearly 20 years of experience in business, government and politics, Tom primarily managed multi-faceted issue advocacy campaigns for clients focused on federal and state legislative affairs. Tom’s expertise lies in evolving new and innovative ways to connect organizations with media, stakeholders, and public officials, through traditional and digital strategies alike.
Tom most recently managed government affairs clients as an independent consultant and was marketing manager for a manufacturing start-up. He was associate principal at Duane Morris Government Strategies (formerly GSP Consulting), from 2006-2013. Prior to joining that firm, he served as a senior sales professional at Verizon Wireless. Tom earned an MBA from Duquesne University and a BA in International Politics from The Pennsylvania State University.
Patrick Thomas (2019)
Patrick works as the Financial Solutions Center Manager for First Commonwealth Bank and work with business owners, as well as work with non-profits and local governments to best implement opportunities for the Community Reinvestment Act to best serve and leverage our communities.
In addition to his work within banking, he is the Vice President of Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity where his primary focus has been on fundraising and further developing the organization. He has a passion for revitalization and supporting our communities to better the world that we live in.