Tony Ceoffe, lifelong Lawrenceville resident and community activist, is hoping to make an impact on public service beyond his years of volunteer work in local neighborhoods, and recently decided to campaign full-time for City Council District 7. The seat became vacant when Patrick Dowd resigned last month. A special election will be held in conjunction with the general election on November 5th to fill the remainder of Dowd’s current term. With the support of his wife and family, Tony has resigned his former position at the Housing Authority to campaign full-time for City Council.
Tony and his wife Becky have been together for ten years and are the proud parents of a three-year-old daughter, Gabriella. As an active, engaged resident in their community, Tony has served as the vice president of Lawrenceville United and as a contributing partner with several resident-driven groups, including the Friends of Arsenal Park and the Lawrenceville Fire Works Committee. He also recently served as the Chairman of the 6th Ward Democratic Committee as one of the youngest Chairman throughout Allegheny County.
Until recently, Tony was employed at the City of Pittsburgh Housing Authority as a Client Placement Specialist. His immediate responsibilities were to determine eligibility of applicants seeking subsidized housing through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and to facilitate the educational process required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development prior to residents participating in the voucher program.
Despite his hectic schedule campaigning these days, Tony was gracious enough to make some time for us and respond to a few questions about running for political office and about his Italian heritage.
CP: Why are you running for political office? What motivated you to run for District 7?
Tony: When representing neighborhoods as diverse as those in Council District 7, I feel that to be effective, you must have your thumb firmly on the pulse of the community. Through my work with Lawrenceville United and other resident-driven community groups, I have had the opportunity to engage in cutting edge public safety strategies, responsible management and growth in our local business districts, community engagement and beautification efforts and the quality of life issues that are most important to those that live, work and play in our neighborhoods. I am from these communities; I understand the concerns of my neighbors and believe that we need a dedicated, independent and passionate public servant to effectively represent our best interest. Our city has seen such a positive transformation over the past few years. I am proud to say that I have been an engaged partner in many of these initiatives and look forward to creating and maintaining this growth throughout the neighborhoods that encompass district 7 and our city.
CP: How do you differ from your opponents?
Tony: There are several candidates that have decided to run for this seat. I believe that policy and passion outweigh politics, and am committed to running a positive grassroots campaign that focuses on the future of Pittsburgh, without seeking endorsements by elected officials. While several of my opponents have participated in community activity in the past, our city has changed by leaps and bounds over the last decade. I have a proven track record as an experienced and dedicated advocate for the residents in Council District 7 in recent years. I have consistently displayed the willingness and aptitude to advocate for our residents through creative and innovative grassroots approaches and my positive and productive working relationships with our neighbors and community partners are a testament to my ability to build consensus throughout our neighborhoods. Having been born and raised in district 7, I know these neighborhoods, the people, and am in touch with the day-to-day concerns most important to the constituency of this district. With my signature hands-on approach, I have put countless hours into bettering the lives of residents, and would continue to work tirelessly to do so if I am voted into office.
CP: How long have you lived in Pittsburgh and what do you enjoy most about the city?
Tony: My wife and I both grew up in Lawrenceville and are committed to raising our family here. It’s a wonderful feeling when you see your child enjoying the same parks, community events and other traditions that I was able to enjoy as a child. Becky and I are excited about the transformation that we are seeing throughout our neighborhoods and look forward to being a part of the vibrant future in store for our city.
CP: Can you tell us about your Italian heritage?
Tony: My Grandfather, also named Tony (go figure) is the son of Italian immigrants who came to the United States from Avellino, Italy, in the Campania region of Southern Italy. My grandfather, along with his three sisters and brother, were all born here in Pittsburgh and grew up in the Strip District. While my father (also named Tony) was stationed in Italy with the US Navy, he attempted to research a more in-depth history about our family, however it appeared that many documents were lost during earthquakes in the 1930s. During a trip to Italy as a teenager with my grandmother, we had the opportunity to travel through Avellino and I can still remember how proud my Nana was to show me the village that our family had came from.
CP: What are some of your favorite Italian traditions and why?
Tony: Obviously, that would be Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house. I am fortunate to come from a rather large family, by today’s definition at least. My dad has three brothers and a sister (poor Lisa), all of whom have children of their own. Sunday is the opportunity that we have to put everything else on hold and focus on what is truly important in life — family. My grandmother typically spends the day making sure that she’s cooked enough food to feed a small army, while the rest of us speculate on what time dinner will actually be served. If Nana says 5, it normally means 7:30. Sunday dinner has become a forum for ironing out problems, cracking jokes (normally centered on my grandfather’s mispronouncing of certain words) and a chance to celebrate the individual achievements that we each experience in our personal and professional lives. It’s a day to celebrate family, and the antipasto and meatballs are a huge plus also.
CP: What does being Italian mean to you?
Tony: Italians have a history of being proud, hard working and dedicated people. This trait has carried over in my family with our strong history of commitment to public service and helping those in our communities. I have been a dedicated community advocate for years, helping to build better neighborhoods for our residents to enjoy and raise their families. My dad serves as the Magisterial District Judge in the 6th and 9th wards and was the executive director of Lawrenceville United, a local grassroots, resident-driven organization that focuses on quality of life issues in Lawrenceville. My uncle Michael is the recording secretary of Teamsters Local 249 and fights tirelessly to ensure fair wages and a safe work environment for our residents. My aunt Lisa is the City Forester here in Pittsburgh and is committed to protecting our environment and expanding the urban forest in the City of Pittsburgh. Being Italian is about history and tradition and I am proud of my family’s history of commitment and dedication to the residents of Pittsburgh.
CP: What accomplishments in life are you most proud of?
Tony: I am most proud of the family that Becky and I have created. I am also extremely proud of the work that I have done professionally with the City Housing Authority, ensuring that low income families are able to provide adequate and comfortable housing, and providing our neighbors with the tools to be successful and engaged members of our neighborhoods.
CP: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Tony: There hasn’t been much free time since the campaign began. My free time is spent with my wife and my daughter. Gabriella is a huge fan of Arsenal Park and enjoys spending Friday night at Cinema in the Park. When I’m not with my family, most of my time is spent working with our local community groups on initiatives that focus on making our neighborhoods safe, clean and green.
CP: Who do you think was the most influential person in your life?
Tony: Without a doubt, my daughter, Gabriella. From the minute I laid eyes on her, I knew that my life would forever be different. I was now responsible for her future and ensuring that she is provided the tools and education to become successful in her life. It is every father’s dream to leave a legacy that his children can be proud of and I hope that my commitment and dedication to our community shows Gabriella the importance of following her dreams, being understanding of others, doing what is right even when it may not be easy, and helping those around her.
CP: What else would you like our readers to know about you?
Tony: I, along with all 22 members of my immediate family, are life-long residents of Lawrenceville. I am a 2002 graduate of Central Catholic High School. My wife and I regularly attend mass with my grandparents at St. Stan’s in the Strip. My grandfather spends his Saturday mornings maintaining the Doughboy Statue in Lawrenceville. I have actively supported and partnered with many of our community groups and resident-driven initiatives including Bloomfield Development, Lawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Corporation, Polish Hill Civic Association, Tree Pittsburgh, The Bernard Dog Run, The Lawrenceville Tree Park, Friends of Arsenal Park, Bloomfield Garfield Corporation’s Gun Buy Back Program, Lawrenceville Fireworks Committee, and Lawrenceville Works.