Former West Hazleton Mayor Dan Guydish dies

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Kent Jackson, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
·4 min read
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May 4—Dan Guydish taught about government, and then he led one.

Guydish, who died Monday, was at the end of career teaching junior high civics when West Hazleton residents elected him mayor in 1993.

He retired after teaching 30 years at H.F. Grebey and West Hazleton junior high schools in 1997, left the mayor's office in 2001 but he never stopped teaching or leading.

Through 2012, he lectured in political science at Luzerne County Community College.

For the past 31 years, Guydish directed Mountain Council of Governments. Last spring during a peak in the pandemic, the Mountain COG sent code officers to inspect local industries, a mission for which the group and the Lower South Valley COG will share the Governor's Award for Local Government Excellence on May 19.

"He worked his whole life trying to improve government," Joe Clark, the Mountain COG president, said.

Clark and Guydish knew each other since they attended rival high schools. Clark went to St. Gabriel's and Guydish to West Hazleton, where he kept team statistics and "was the No. 1 fan," Clark said.

They stayed close when Clark taught and became athletic director at West Hazleton High School while Guydish officiated basketball games.

Later at the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, Guydish, the membership director the past 15 years, recruited speakers for training sessions that Clark organized as director of Leadership Hazleton.

"He was the ultimate professional person. You could go to him for anything," said former chamber President Donna Palermo, who hired Guydish.

As membership director for the chamber, Guydish often was the first person whom new business owners met.

He introduced them to people from other businesses, suggested ideas and drew from his own experience as a small business owner. For a time, he ran the Sports Page bar in Hazleton.

"It was an instant connection," chamber President Mary Malone said. "He was one of those people who make strangers friends very quickly."

Guydish also made friends on the golf course, where he played frequently and merited mentions in the Standard-Speaker for hitting holes-in-one. He also helped organize golf tournaments for the chamber and the Kazimierz Pulawski Political Club, to which he belonged, in Hazle Twp.

The chamber has a small enough leadership team that Guydish helped with other projects like Funfest weekend, for which he coordinated security. During the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup, he organized volunteers who picked up litter two weeks ago, as he had done the three previous Aprils.

"It never ceased to amaze me when we were at a chamber event, people always recognized Dan, especially from teaching," Malone said. "Dan was a very beloved teacher."

Guydish shared what he learned at the Mountain COG with leaders from other regions who wanted to start councils of government, which promote efficiency by sharing knowledge and equipment.

In Harrisburg, he knew government leaders from his service on Pennsylvania's Tax Equalization Board for the past 21 years.

"Dan Guydish was a dedicated public servant that transcended partisan politics and focused on simply getting things done for the betterment of his community and neighbors, and his work reached many throughout the entire northeastern Pennsylvania region," Sen. John Yudichak, I-14, Swoyersville, said in a statement when expressing condolences to Guydish's wife, Kerri, and daughter, Kayla.

Yudichak and Guydish talked two weeks ago when the Governor's Award was announced.

"He knew everybody," said former Hazleton Mayor Joe Yannuzzi, who collaborated with Guydish on projects at the chamber, the Mountain COG and the Greater Hazleton Civic Partnership. "He always had that positive attitude. You saw him and your attitude changed."

Former West Hazleton Council members Robert Fiume and Jeff Kubitz said Guydish cared about the borough.

"He was a good guy to work with, kept an open mind was fair," Fiume said. "I never really heard a bad word about him."

Kubitz, who is 20 years younger, thought of Guydish as his mentor not just in government but life. Though Kubitz is a Democrat and Guydish was a Republican, Guydish included him in policymaking.

"He was entrenched. He didn't have to do that," Kubitz said.

"Danny's motto was, 'What can we do to help? Let's refurbish a playground for the kids, do something for the senior citizens ... (for) the first responders," Kubitz said. "That's basically how he lived his life."

Contact the writer: kjackson@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3587