As we close out one year, and begin a new one, we all reflect on our lives. As I watched the last few Board of Supervisor meetings, I reflected on the effect that Judy DiFillipo’s retirement would have on our community. Having served this township as a supervisor for 20 years, I wrote the following ‘As I See It’ article for this week’s edition of Main Line Suburban Life newspaper to honor Judy and her leadership qualities that benefited the residents for 2 decades. And as a means of full disclosure, . . . yes, Judy and I very close friends.
For those who do not receive the paper, here is my article:
As I See It:
Tredyffrin lost something special with DiFilippo’s departure
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010
By Pattye Benson
Year’s end is always a time of reflection. We look back over the last 12 months and take measure of where we are now in relation to where we were when the year began. As we begin 2010, the residents of Tredyffrin Township will have the opportunity to reflect on what will now be a “missing link” in our local leadership.
What makes a good leader? Not everyone is made to be a leader … there are leaders and then there are followers. Leaders come from all walks of life and economic backgrounds and from either gender. Leadership does not discriminate. For the last 20 years Tredyffrin Township was fortunate to have a “leader” in retiring Supervisor Judy DiFilippo. For many in the community, Judy represented what can and should be “good” about serving as an elected official. Whether you watched the Board of Supervisors meetings from home or sat in the audience, she possessed the ability to transform and command respect from others on either side of her.
Judy guided the township in an orderly and purposeful manner, even in situations of discontent and uncertainty in the community. As a supervisor she was tolerant of ambiguity and remained calm, composed and steadfast to the main purpose… to serve the residents of Tredyffrin Township. We all knew that we could trust Judy; she governed as she lived her life, with honesty, integrity and strong internal guiding principles that she did not compromise. Judy “walked the talk” and in doing so earned our respect and the right to have responsibility for this community. Her “calming of the waters” approach to governing reassured us … we just all knew that it would be OK as long as Judy was guiding the ship.
Judy understood the importance of serving a wider community. We may not have always agreed with her decisions but we could be confident that the community’s best interests were at the core of her decisions. As a supervisor Judy could wade through difficult information, comprehend what is relevant, make a well-considered decision and take action based on that decision. Judy believed her purpose as an elected official was to serve all the community and did so with genuine concern for all of the residents. As a leader Judy inspired others to follow. She led yet people did not feel that they were being led. Judy served as a quiet leader without demanding recognition and praise, a quality that is quite rare among many elected officials.
I understand all too well her many attributes; our friendship goes back nearly as long as she served as a township supervisor. For close to 20 years our lives have been intertwined … standing next to each other as members of the Noteables; co-chairing the Tredyffrin 300 celebration as well as many other events for the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust; together producing the historical documentary, “Tredyffrin … The First 300 Years,” etc. For me Judy has been the one constant friend in my life who would listen first, counsel second and never judge my decisions (even if she did not always agree with them). A true sign of a gifted leader (and close friend) is someone who really listens; the fastest and most effective way to show that you care and that you are competent. Many of us are challenged by the concept of listening but not Judy. I envy this natural talent in my friend and just another quality that sets her apart from many in the world of politics.
A good leader is committed to excellence. Second best does not lead to success. Judy not only maintained a high standard for herself but also was proactive in raising the bar in order to achieve excellence in all areas. Just her presence makes those around her want to be better people.
How will we feel that the person who “set the bar” for 20 years, who created the real “gold standard” for Tredyffrin Township, is no longer sitting on the dais? Yes, we know that Judy will stay involved in our community, and yes, I know that she and I will remain the best of friends, but I fear that the residents of Tredyffrin Township lost something very special when Judy DiFilippo decided to retire from the Board of Supervisors.
Pattye Benson lives in Malvern.