Terri Klein has been involved in “little ‘p’ politics” for more than 20 years, she said, beginning with an appointment in the early 1990s to the 14th Ward Democratic Committee.
But circumstances changed for the Squirrel Hill resident last week when the Allegheny County Council unanimously approved Klein’s appointment as interim District 11 councilwoman to finish the remainder of the late Barbara Daly Danko’s term.
Danko died of cancer on May 6.
Klein, 14th Ward vice chair and chair of Danko’s campaign committee, was sworn in on June 2 by Common Pleas Judge Eleanor L. Bush at council’s regular meeting.
Following Danko’s death, Klein decided to put her hat in the ring to be considered for the interim appointment because she was confident she could uphold Danko’s commitment to “integrity, transparency and good government,” she said.
“I think to honor the voters’ wishes, it was important to have someone who could carry on in Barbara’s traditions,” she added. “And I am getting lots of support.”
Klein was raised in Forest Hills and attended the University of Pennsylvania. She earned a graduate degree in public health from St. Louis University, and returned to Pittsburgh in 1990. She and her husband, Daniel Gup, have two adult children and are members of Temple Sinai. She is employed as a physical therapist at an assisted living facility and serves on the board of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
After serving for many years on the 14th Ward Democratic Committee, Klein was tapped by Danko to take on more of a leadership role when Danko vacated her post as chair of that committee to fill the council spot left by Rich Fitzgerald when he ran for Allegheny County executive. Sam Hens-Greco, who was serving as vice chair of the committee, assumed Danko’s role as chair, and Klein then ran for vice chair, a position she has held for the last four years.
She had not planned to seek a council position until Danko’s death, she said.
“I would never have thought of this position because I thought I was so ably represented by Barbara,” Klein said. “I do have very big shoes to fill.”
Ten other candidates applied for the interim position, but Klein was the only one who put in writing that she would not seek re-election this coming fall, according to council president John De Fazio. It was important to council that no candidate be given “an edge” in November by having served in the interim position, he explained.
“There were a lot of good, educated people applying,” De Fazio said. “But [Klein] was the only one up front who said she wouldn’t be seeking the Democratic endorsement.”
Sam Hens-Greco, chairman of the 14th Ward, said he was “pleased with the process” that ultimately put Klein in Danko’s council seat.
“I thought the process was open, fair and transparent,” Hens-Greco said. “And I am very, very supportive of Terri Klein.”
George Danko, the late councilwoman’s husband, was pleased with Klein’s appointment.
“I think my wife would be happy with the decision that the county council made to appoint Terri to be Barbara’s successor,” he said.
Klein intends to honor Danko’s legacy, she said, which includes an emphasis on keeping government “open and transparent.”
“I told George [Danko] that I would try to comport myself as Barbara would,” Klein said. “But his advice to me was ‘You have to follow your conscience and vote your conscience because that’s what Barbara would have wanted.’”
As for specific policies favored by Danko, Klein said that she would follow her predecessor’s lead on opposing drilling in county parks.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.