State College Magazine

The Beekeeper

Photo by Georgianna Sutherland

When County Administrator John J. Franek, Jr. watched a documentary about vanishing bees more than a decade ago, he realized he had to help and so he became a beekeeper. “The future of beekeeping is not one person having 10,000 hives,” he explains, “but 10,000 people having one hive.”

From the documentary, Franek learned that bees as pollinators in some way are responsible for a third of the food we eat. Beekeeping has helped Franek in his career, he says, because it is therapeutic for him and because bees are selfless and community centered in their work.

But like the bees, Franek notes that the many services provided by the county are the work of the nearly 600 county employees. “It’s not an any single-person effort here,” he says. “Challenges are too broad and complicated to lay at any one person’s feet.”

On the job, Franek says “You do see the struggles and challenges that people have in their everyday lives. It’s been a real eye-opening experience for me.”

Franek did not start out to be in public service or to keep bees. The Philipsburg native graduated from Moshannon Valley High School, then went to trade school and became a mason.

After working for PennDOT for five years, Franek became the zoning officer for College Township then the code services manager for the Centre Region Council of Governments and then the deputy county administrator, a position he held for two years before being promoted to administrator in May after the incumbent, Margaret Gray, retired.

Franek would like young people to get a better education about the role and purpose of government so it’s not seen as “an unknown entity that hands down edicts and mandates.” Civic engagement, he says, is something society needs to work on.

“Public service is a rewarding career,” he says, and he invites anyone interested in such a career to get in touch with him.

In other words, be one of the bees.

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