By Alice Crow
Mayor Michael Dixon of Coraopolis doesn't see himself as a politician, and neither do his constituents. Instead, a better title would be advocate or friend.
“A notoriously kind man, he goes to bat for his residents with a protective, empowering energy that people gravitate towards,” resident Veronica White wrote while nominating Dixon for Gazette 2.0’s Person of the Year contest.
“He truly cares about our community. He cares about the small things and the big things. Everyone is important to him. He is kind, compassionate, and honest,” resident Sara DePace wrote in her nomination for Dixon.
Dixon, Gazette 2.0’s Person of the Year, said he feels that the winding path of life intentionally led him to being Mayor of Coraopolis.
“This is the work that I’ve been waiting to do my whole life,” Dixon told Gazette 2.0. “I’ve really just been waiting for this opportunity to give back and I can’t be gracious enough for the outpouring of support from the community.”
Dixon grew up nearby in McDonald and studied classical political thought at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but he later went on to be a software engineer. In 2015, Dixon and his wife moved to Coraopolis. A couple years later, during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, Dixon became vocal on social media about the polarization he saw happening across the country.
“I wanted to find a way to get involved, because we all know that change happens at your local level. It’s the most impactful part of government,” Dixon said.
He originally planned to run for a council seat, but when the position for mayor opened up at the same time, Dixon realized this was his perfect chance to give back to the community. Dixon, 42, was elected at the end of 2021 and took office at the beginning of 2022. He’s the youngest mayor in Coraopolis history.
With one year of being mayor now under his belt, Dixon has accomplished a lot, and people have noticed.
“He is seen at every Second Saturday and knows just about everyone in town,” resident Mallory Matson wrote in her nomination for Dixon. “He works out, eats, gets his haircut and shops all locally to his community. He is at every council meeting trying to bridge the gap between long standing members of the community and new members of the community.”
One of Dixon’s most noticeable projects include organizing a donation event with Communicycle, a local nonprofit that uses bikes to connect community members and organizations. Around 100 free bikes were given to Coraopolis residents as part of the event.
Dixon also organized a popular “Shop with a Cop” event, in collaboration with Dick’s Sporting Goods. Twenty elementary school students at Cornell were given $150 dollars each to shop with an officer from Coraopolis or Ohio Township. The event raised $4,000, the largest “Shop with a Cop” event at a Dick’s Sporting Goods in the nation.
It is obvious Dixon holds a special place in his heart for the children of Coraopolis. In late October of this year, Coraopolis resident Theresa Kelley was turning 4. She had spent a majority of her life sick with a bowel issue, but had a great love for police officers.
“Mayor Dixon took the time to schedule a drive by for my 4-year-old daughter from the Coraopolis police department,” Melissa Kelley wrote in her nomination for Dixon.“He is an extremely great mayor. He takes the time to listen to you and is always in the community volunteering and making things right.”
One of Dixon’s fondest memories of the year is enlisting two Coraopolis police officers to visit the little girl on her birthday.
“We came up in squad cars with the lights on and the sirens on, and she was just so happy. That was really just the pinnacle moment of the year,” Dixon said.
Dixon's efforts don’t stop there. Since he and his wife don’t have children, they decided to adopt 20 kids this holiday season as part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. This program provides gifts to children who would otherwise not receive anything on Christmas.
“We don’t want there to be a kid that doesn’t have a Christmas present,” Dixon said. “If there is anything we can do to help children, that’s where our heart is.”
Along with his particular drive to help children in the community, Dixon is also seen as a truly inclusive representative. Micheal Harris has lived in Coraopolis for 56 years and has never experienced such an involved mayor as Dixon.
“He is a champion of the youth and the elderly, the streets and the parks. He is our champion of inclusion and diversity, and always makes himself available to every citizen of our community for help and advice,” Harris wrote in his nomination for Dixon.
Dixon encourages residents to reach out to him as he is happy to speak with anyone about Coraopolis. Also, this year he signed multiple proclamations, including one for Pride Month, Black History Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. His mission is to include everyone in continuing what he sees as the Coraopolis renaissance.
Dixon doesn’t see himself slowing down. In the coming year he said he hopes to connect more with Coraopolis’ Hispanic community (he is currently brushing up on his Spanish) and to host more multigenerational events.
In just this year alone, it's obvious that Dixon wears his love for Coraopolis on his sleeve. When learning he won person of the year, Dixon couldn’t help but be a little emotional.
“I’m humbled. I’m honored. I don't have words,” he said. “I can’t say thank you enough. I want to see every submission and write every single person that nominated me a handwritten thank you letter… Wow, thank you.”