Taylor’s top aide moves on, will miss constituent work

On July 25, Marc Collazzo started a new position at Pope John Paul II High School as the executive director of advancement and engagement.

Taylor’s right-hand man: Marc Collazzo worked with Rep. John Taylor since 2011. He’s now serving as the executive director of advancement and engagement for Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford. MELISSA KOMAR / TIMES PHOTO

If you’ve contacted state Rep. John Taylor’s office with a complaint or question within the last several years, there’s a good chance Marc Collazzo was involved with the solution.

Serving as Taylor’s district office manager of the 177th District since December 2011, Collazzo wore many hats, from providing answers to the public, to representing Taylor at civic meetings, to helping draft legislation.

As of July 22, Collazzo hung all those hats up.

On July 25, he started his new position at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford as the executive director of advancement and engagement.

While Collazzo is excited about his new job, it’s obvious he is going to miss working directly with the people in the 177th District.

“I woke up with a pit in my stomach all this week, not because I didn’t make the right decision, but because you realize how much you’re going to miss it,” he said. “I’ve found no better way to impact people’s lives for the better.”

Not working with Taylor will be an adjustment as well.

“I’ve known Representative Taylor through politics for many, many years,” Collazzo said. “The definition of public servant is him. It’s not about party or ideology. He just wants to help. On a personal level, he has treated me like I’m his son. The relationship will continue, but that will be the hardest part.”

Collazzo is a 1986 graduate of George Washington High School. While in college, he worked for state Rep. George Kenney.

In 2010, he was the Republican candidate in the 170th Legislative District, Kenney’s former seat. He is former Republican leader of the 58th Ward, and has been a board member for the Mayfair Community Development Corporation and St. Hubert High School.

Prior to joining Taylor’s staff, Collazzo was the policy analyst for former City Councilman At-Large Frank Rizzo.

At the time, Taylor wanted to work on broader projects including blight, and with the help of Collazzo’s legal background — he graduated from Widener University with a juris doctor in law — Taylor started using a tool not many other elected officials were using to fight the problem.

The tool, Act 135, the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act, became an essential part of Taylor’s campaign to fix blighted properties and have them become vibrant homes again in the district.

“You have that one good block and then there’s the eyesore,” Collazzo said. “To have a tool to help the neighborhood help itself and take control and fix it was very rewarding.”

House Bill 1363 of 2014 included amendments to the act he helped write.

Collazzo also helped find eligible properties.

Beyond fighting blight, there are many examples of instances of “problem solving” Collazzo is proud to have been a part of.

There was the house on 2800 block of Almond Street where Taylor’s office involved several entities to remove people who were selling drugs. Now, the house is owner occupied, and neighbors no longer deal with junkies and fights.

Then there was the constituent who lived next to a property that was filled with vermin and collapsing. Using a tool in the Estates Code, Taylor’s office had an attorney appointed the executor of the property, the property was sold to the constituent at fair-market value and was fixed up and money is in a bank account should the heirs of the property ever emerge.

“We were able to do this in three months,” Collazzo said. “That was my first year here, and that was a great example of being able to put legislation to use.”

Legislation and government have always played a role in his life.

“My father was a ward leader, my grandfather had done it, so it was sort of in the blood to be involved,” Collazzo said. “I was out knocking on doors with my dad and in the polling places before I really knew what anything else was. So, I always had a passion for it.”

His new position will certainly be a change from the political scene, but Collazzo is excited for the new responsibilities. In his new position, he will work with a team to “raise funds for the school, engage alumni, help with admissions and lobby as the school needs.”

“I want to help grow the enrollment and I want to help the alumni, staff, families and community all feel engaged in this institution, that it’s not just a school, it’s part of the community,” Collazzo said.

The commute will be an adjustment, too.

Collazzo has lived in Philadelphia his entire life, first in the Far Northeast and currently in Port Richmond.

And while he will spend his days in Royersford, don’t expect him to leave the 177th District any time soon.

“I’m going to stay here. It’s still my home,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great people who have welcomed me. It would be very hard for me to move away from that.”

Although he will simply be a constituent, Collazzo said he will still attend civic meetings, and he anticipates he will still receive phone calls from residents.

“The outpouring I received when I made the announcement surprised me,” Collazzo said. “In our business, we deal with complaints and not necessarily complaints about us. We deal with people when they are troubled or upset, and it’s our job to help them. It’s nice to know I made some impact on them.”

One thing he has learned in dealing with the public over the years is patience and to listen.

“You have to be very, very patient, and one of the big things I followed from Representative Taylor was you have to be able to listen to people when they are upset,” Collazzo said. “They’re not upset with you, necessarily, they are upset with what’s happening to them. But every problem is important. You don’t weigh them.”

Whether it’s bugs swarming the streets, potholes or drag racing on Delaware Avenue, there is always an issue for Taylor to tackle, and Collazzo hopes he is in a position “to still do some good for the 177th.”

While Collazzo has spent most of his time serving others working for Taylor, the people have impacted him, too.

“Thank you for making me feel part of your community,” he said. “I’m happy to still be your neighbor and it’s been my true privilege to hopefully make some lives better and please continue to support John [Taylor] because he will always support you.”