Duryea Borough Mayor Keith Moss, left, Joleen Lazecki, Pittston Tomato Festival committee, and Mayor Michael Lombardo of the City of Pittston, were on hand for the combined Greater Pittston Person of the Year Award and the Best of Greater Pittston Awards in 2018 at The Red Mill, Pittston.
Tony Callaio | File photo
Duryea Mayor Keith Moss stands next to a bulletin board filled with thank you cards and letters from couples he had officiated their wedding ceremonies over the years. Moss estimates he’s married approximately 500 couples.
Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Mayor Keith Moss of Duryea looks over a file from Duryea Borough manager Carolyn Santee.
Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Duryea Mayor Keith Moss operated a tractor ride during the Pittston City’s 2nd Annual Trick or Treat on Main Street. held in 2016.
Tony Callaio | File photo
DURYEA – For nearly half of his life, Keith Moss has dedicated himself to public service, first as a councilman for two terms and the last 19 years as mayor of Duryea.
Moss took time recently to reflect his time in office for the last 28 years.
What started off as a dare in 1983 from a friend, Moss found himself on a ballot for Duryea council.
After two terms on council, in 2000, Moss made a bid for mayor of the borough because of his desire to work with the police department and to head public relations, getting elected in 2001.
“I was interested in the police department and the mayor is in charge of the police and the PR for the town and I thought it would have been a good thing for the community since I was a lifelong resident of Duryea,” Moss admitted.
Once elected, Moss got through the learning curve as he grew into the role of mayor.
“It was a big learning curve,” Moss, smiling through the answer, said. “Especially in 2011 when we had the flood and the mayor is responsible for emergency declarations. And you have to submit it to the county, and it’s good for seven days and I found out the hard way.”
Post flood, Moss said 30 residents filed suit against him personally and as mayor of Duryea, claiming he intentionally flooded a part of Duryea in order to save the upper part of Main Street.
“It started with 30 people and 15 backed out of the suit eventually,” Moss said.
The court case went as high as the Supreme Court where it was decided in Moss’ favor.
Since the flood in 2011, Moss has been running the town where he feels the hardest part of running the police department is keeping officers.
“I’ve always had four full-time police officers, and I was down to two officers, got back to four and lost two again, but since then, I’m trying to get us back to four full-time officers,” Moss said. “It’s just so hard to work with council and the civil service commission to try to get officers hired.”
Moss said it’s the civil service rules and regulations, getting the borough committee together and getting applicants is three hurdles he faces in hiring more police officers.
The borough currently has eight part-time officers working with the full-time team.
Moss will be working diligently to round out a four-full-time police force for the future.
“My goal as mayor was to always have the people from Duryea always protected and the best thing for the 4,900 residents of Duryea, whatever I could do to help them. I always made myself available for the people of Duryea,” Moss stated.
Over his tenure, the mayor as seen new police cars, including an SUV and a Ford pick-up truck where Moss claims Duryea was the first municipality in Wyoming Valley to secure a truck for the department.
One of Moss’ biggest joys as mayor was declaring Collins, Miss., as a sister city after their town was wiped out from Hurricane Katrina in 2003.
Moss led an effort to raise money for Collins by holding several fundraisers collecting $25,000.
“We had Collins’ mayor and his wife in for one of the fundraisers and as a result, they invited myself and my wife and my cousin Trina and her daughter to Collins, Mississippi,” Moss said. “The mayor treated me fabulously. They gave me several awards and the key to the city along with a proclamation.
“It was an honor to do something like that.”
Another honor Moss takes to heart is the Joseph Saporito Sr. Lifetime of Service Award, presented by the Sunday Dispatch.
“I was very honored in receiving that (award) but the only thing that broke my heart was my mom and dad were not around for that,” Moss said. “I know they were watching over me and they were very proud.”
Moss has been on a statewide committee as chair of the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association’s Mayor of the Year committee. Moss has been chair for last eight years.
“That’s been another high as my role of mayor; it’s a very big high,” Moss admitted.
The role of chairperson has the opportunity to travel the state meeting mayors and seeing other communities.
“It’s an honor to meet with other mayors from all around the state of Pennsylvania,” Moss admitted. “I was out in Erie twice, for example, and to learn from other mayors and to see what they do and how they go about doing things has been a good thing.”
As Duryea mayor, Moss has a close working relationship with other mayors from surrounding towns, including the City of Pittston and Mayor Michael Lombardo.
“Mayor Lombardo is a great guy and he taught me a lot on how to go about things,” Moss said. “He’s a great source of knowledge in all areas.”
Moss said he enjoys helping other mayors such as Mayor Quick of Hughestown, Mayor Legg of Old Forge, and enjoyed working with the late Tony Denisco, former mayor of West Pittston and their current mayor Tom Blaskiewicz.
Although it may seem that being a town mayor is a full-time job, it isn’t. Moss is employed by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport for the last 17 years as a maintenance firefighter.
“I got to see all kinds of things working at the airport, including seeing President Bush, Obama and Vice President Biden,” Moss said. “Biden was here in Duryea with me right after the flood and walked around the flooded area. That was a high and he gave me his personal number if I ever needed anything.”
One of the absolute joys of Moss’ job is performing weddings. He’s estimated doing more than 500 weddings in the last 19 years.
“It’s unbelievable to stand there and do a wedding ceremony for people, there’s no words, it’s just incredible,” Moss said. “I don’t do ceremonies for the fun of it. I’m serious about it and I do for these couples to stay together.”
One particular wedding that brings tears to Moss’ eyes is when he was asked to perform a wedding for a woman he grew up with in Duryea.
“A good friend of mine wanted to marry her boyfriend who was suffering from brain cancer and she wanted to be married to him. They are married for five years, and he is still battling cancer. It was very touching,” Moss said. “It’s a great love story.”
Moss is the son of the late George and Arlene Moss and is one of 10 siblings. He’s has a daughter Leanne and currently has three stepchildren with his wife, Patricia.
“I accomplished what I set out to do and hopefully by the time I leave office. We’ll have our four-full-time officers in place, and I will feel I left the borough in good shape with the police department,” Moss said. “For the next 18 months, I’ll be looking for someone to take over mayor and whomever it is, I’ll be here for them.”
Moss will leave office in January of 2022.