2018 Citizen of the Year
Citizen of the Year epitomizes community involvement
By Leigh Green
For his tireless dedication and service to those in need and his leadership within the Chester County community and government, the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce has chosen Matthew Holliday as its 2018 Citizen of the Year.
“Few embrace and serve their community with such depth and breadth as Matt,” said GWCC President Mark Yoder. “His service is not only in line with the mission of the Chamber itself but impactful on a tremendous scale that reaches throughout our region and beyond.”
Holliday came to West Chester as a freshman West Chester University student and fell in love with the town. He’d moved thirteen times as a youth and says, “This was the first place that had ever resembled a hometown to me. Once I moved to West Chester, I knew I would never leave.”
Holliday initially enrolled at WCU as a History Education major. “I thought the best thing would be to be a positive role model for high school students,” he says. But his history professor at the time, Dr. Ben Peters, advised him otherwise. “He said, ‘Holliday, you should be making history not teaching it,’” he recalls. “That was a very nice hyperbolic stretch, and I think teaching is an incredibly noble calling, but I understood what he meant: you should be getting out there and helping even more people.” Holliday switched majors and earned a degree in Political Science.
Upon graduation, Holliday hit the ground running. “I knew I wanted to be a part of the positive momentum that our community has,” he says. “I’m fortunate that a number of people took chances on me.”
Holliday served as Political Director for the Republican Committee of Chester County before becoming Chief of Staff for State Representative Dan Truitt a year later. It was alongside Truitt that Holliday really cut his teeth. “I was exposed to the two different facets of being an elected official in the legislator,” he says. “You have the official job in Harrisburg, creating laws, and then the very real end of helping individual citizens with their needs.”
Holliday helped Truitt with some key pieces of legislation including The Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act, a comprehensive anti-bullying initiative, and the Family Medical Leave Expansion Act, which allows job-protected leave for individuals caring for a sibling, grandparent, or grandchild.
Holliday now serves as The Prothonotary of Chester County, an elected role he’s occupied since 2016. He leads a staff of 30 and handles any issues that arise with the well over 12,000 annual cases seen by the Court of Common Pleas. He’s worked to make services more accessible, implementing a language translation service and expanding payment options. And he’s established an internship program with WCU and a Prothonotary’s Advisory Council for feedback and process improvement.
But it’s helping individuals that brings Holliday the most joy. He says, “One of my favorite things to do is go the extra mile for someone, even when it’s not our responsibility.” This past year, he was able to help a young girl, whose mother had passed away, meet her relatives in Mexico for the first time. She’d saved money for six months before being denied a passport on a technicality. He was able to intervene, convincing a judge to issue an order so the girl could obtain an emergency passport. Holliday also regularly checks in on victims of abuse in the courtroom, making sure they have the resources they need to start their new lives.
And while the demands of this role would keep anyone busy, they scratch the surface of Holliday’s work. This coming year Holliday will navigate four presidencies of non-profit organizations for The Friends Association for Care and Protection of Children, The West Chester Rotary Club, the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, and the West Chester Downtown Foundation while hitting the campaign trail to seek re-election as Prothonotary. He’ll also serve on ten additional boards in a variety of leadership capacities for The Friars’ Society Alumni Association Board, the West Chester Public Library, the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, the Knights of Columbus, the West Chester University Alumni Association, the West Chester Area Senior Center, the West Chester Business Improvement District, The Arc of Chester County, Student Services, INC., and The Salvation Army of West Chester.
Holliday says it typically rounds out to at least one meeting or event per night. “I don’t necessarily recommend that to anyone, but there’s so much need in the community that, until more people step up, I’m going to do what I can.”
When told he’d been selected as the Citizen of the Year, Holliday says, “I honestly couldn’t believe it.” Immediately his thoughts turned to his role models within the community. “So many people accepted me as soon as I stood up and was ready to help,” he says, counting Richard May (WC Downtown Foundation and WC BID), Tracy Sammarone (WC Downtown Foundation), Bill Ronayne and Bill Friedmann (Rotary Club), and the late Dr. Rob Lukens (Chester County Historical Society) as chief early influences.
Looking ahead, Holliday’s eager for new opportunities for public service roles and sees a bright future for West Chester. He says, “I think this community is only going to improve. I think we have the possibility to eliminate chronic homelessness in the next few years. The project that is replacing the old Mosteller building is going to be a huge asset down the road. And we just have to make sure we welcome new members to the community with open arms. That is going to be key in making sure we continue to succeed.”
“When you get high up on the mountain it’s easy to say, ‘This is good. Let’s keep it here,’” Holliday adds. “But there’s always more to climb, and you have to make things better and better.”
Join us at the GWCC Annual Banquet to celebrate Matthew Holliday. Purchase tickets at GreaterWestChester.com/annual-banquet.