After nearly four decades of service to members and numerous administrations in various roles in both SMART Transportation Division’s Public Relations and President’s Department, Senior Administrative Assistant to the President John Horvath is calling it a career.Starting May 1, the office won’t echo with his impassioned readings of Article 21B of the SMART Constitution as he provides guidance to those in need, and his gregarious conversations throughout the office will be missed.
“John has certainly left an enduring mark on how this union has been run,” said SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson. “His experience as a communicator and his constitutional expertise provided a great depth of institutional knowledge. He’s going to be missed tremendously.”
Horvath started out with the then-United Transportation Union on Jan. 5, 1981, in the Public Relations Department after getting a journalism degree from The Ohio State University. For 14 years in the department his special focus was on the alumni program, including multiple rebrandings. He also helped produce communication vehicles for the union, including the UTU News and UTU calendars, through five presidents’ administrations — from Fred Hardin to Paul C. Thompson, always focusing on members’ stories and what mattered most to them.
“In my own past, I had some difficult jobs – I saw the need for dignity and a fair shake for the worker,” Horvath said. “I felt it was the ideal job for me. I wasn’t looking for a job, I was looking for a career, and that’s what I got.”
In 2007, he moved on to the President’s Department where his primary focus became the union’s constitution. His communications role already had allowed Horvath to acquire in-depth knowledge about union operations, and it was easy for him to adjust to the new role.
On the cutting edge of organizational functions in the President’s Department, Horvath was able to provide steady guidance to his co-workers across multiple departments. When confronted with a question regarding Local governance, Horvath always was able to provide the evidence to resolve the situation with his trusty copy of the constitution at hand, occasionally with the flair of an orator.
“John is a brilliant person and working with him was a valuable experience. I was truly fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable to learn from,” said Ralph Leichliter, an administrative assistant in the President’s Department, who worked alongside him. “He truly cares about our members and set high standards for the support we provide. I look forward to continuing our friendship and I wish him a retirement that’s as gratifying as his years here at SMART.”
“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from John, and I am honored to have worked alongside him for the last five years” said Administrative Assistant Jeff Brandow. “His passion for the union labor movement and his dedication to our members is absolute, and I am certain that many of our members will agree when I say we owe John a debt of gratitude for imparting some of his knowledge to us. It’s going to be quite an adjustment not having him in the office every day.”
In retirement, Horvath said he has no immediate plans other than to spend time with his wife of 37 years, Cheryl, and to continue to play guitar as long as his health allows — he’s been known to gig around the Cleveland area on occasion.
The SMART Transportation Division wishes John the very best and a long, happy and healthy retirement.