For Pride Month, PTN's Jim Hamill introduces us to Pocono mayors who represent the LGBTQ+ community.
The Pocono Mountains is celebrating pride this June in lots of different ways with festival and camping events. For two towns in the Poconos, their mayors exude pride every day. Not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all their communities do to welcome everyone.
Mayor Mike Moreno is right at home in downtown Stroudsburg saying hi to folks he knows and always wearing a big smile. It's one indicator of the immense pride he has in this town in the Pocono Mountains.
"Being part of LGBTQ community, having pride here in the center of our town and having young kids see they don’t have to go to New York or Philadelphia to experience a pride festival it’s empowering to them, and now they can see someone like them as mayor," said Mayor Moreno.
Prior to his appointment to mayor in 2022, Moreno was instrumental in starting Pocono Pride Fest four years ago and since then, it has grown!
"How it’s blossomed to 3 or 5 thousand people coming to town with over 120 flags raised in Stroudsburg," he added.
At 30 years old, Mayor Moreno is still on his professional and personal journeys. Given the way this community welcomes him and others in the LGBTQ+ community, pride is only a natural feeling.
"It feels really good to hold my boyfriend’s hand and walk down the streets. It's just a wonderful feeling," said Mayor Moreno.
"I’m sure we’re the smallest in PA, maybe smallest in the country to have our own LGBT center, the TriVersity center," said Milford Mayor Sean Strub.
Mayor Strub credits many before him for fostering inclusion and representation in local government. Compared to Moreno's seven months, Mayor Strub has held office for seven years.
"What I am proud of is what the gay community represents, the values it promotes. Respect, tolerance, inclusion. That gives me a lot of pride," he said.
Mayor Strub champions Milford as a culturally vibrant town in the Poconos and it is. Film and music fests, opera and authors and Strub very much believes this has shifted the way young people see themselves fitting in here.
"Now they see elected officials, business owners, faith leaders. They have role models, they didn’t know a time when they didn’t have role models," he said.
Over the years, Strub has devoted his life to activism, causes related the AIDS epidemic and others. And now, he hones in on his community which is a source of pride to know it's, like Mayor Moreno's to him, where he belongs.
"I like small town living, I like knowing my neighbors. I like knowing if we have an emergency people would be there for us," said Mayor Strub.
"We have such a diverse community - you can see it within the arts.. you can see it running into an art gallery - when you go there you can see all different expressions from different communities I believe that’s what breathes life into being prideful of where we live," said Mayor Moreno.