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Family, faith and community: Village manager emphasizes all

Mark McTrustry works on a roof on Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, after a super typhoon, as part of a joint United Methodist-Federal Emergency Management Agency program. (Submitted photo)

EAST PALESTINE– Rugby is a harsh sport, filled with aggression and physicality. But that’s not why it’s Mark McTrustry’s favorite sport. Sure he loves the game itself, but the community of people he used to play with is what he craved.

While growing up in Northern Ireland, the schools in his area were divided based on religion and class, but rugby was the one thing that brought everyone together.

McTrustry has always practiced togetherness and has had the goal of bringing people together. It’s partly why he wanted to help the community by accepting the role of village manager in October.

It’s also partly why he had been a pastor for 16 years.

He knew it would be part of his path at the age of 16, when he became involved with the Northern Ireland Peace Process, bringing various religious communities together.

McTrustry speaks at the East Palestine Fire Department memorial service in 2017. He has been the department chaplain since 2014. (Submitted photo)

After studying civil engineering at both Queen’s University in Belfast and the University of London, he worked for a company that specialized in industrial and very heavy construction. He was a project engineer on a waste water treatment plan for a city of about 300,000 and worked on a job to replace railway lines overnight to improve a high-speed rail line between Belfast and Dublin.

McTrustry moved to the United States in 1999 after meeting his future wife, Beth, and falling in love instantly during a summer camp for European college students a few years earlier. He lived in Leetonia and Salem until he moved to East Palestine in 2011. For about 20 years, a big part of his life revolved around his family and being a pastor.

So when he spoke at his final service on the last Sunday in November at Centenary United Methodist Church, he could not believe it was the last time. McTrustry, who isn’t usually a hyper-emotional person, spoke to the congregation with full transparency and vulnerability. While it was his final time speaking as a pastor, he knew his faith would continue to grow as the village manager.

“I’ve always believed that faith is a two-edged sword,” McTrustry said. “There’s what we believe and there’s how we put it into practice. My faith is a big part of who I am and it drives what I do.”

Part of the reason McTrustry took the village manager role was stability for his family. His three children Cait (17), Aidan (15) and Lia (13) are all in the East Palestine School District, which was a big motivation to stay in the community.

As Methodists, pastors get moved about every four to seven years, but given McTrustry’s family situation and love for East Palestine, he wanted to remain in the community.

“My family has always been very supportive of my ministry,” McTrustry said. “I was ready to settle down in the community for a while, and I really wanted to give them some stability.”

He also served as an active member of the East Palestine Volunteer Fire Department for about four years and still serves as the chaplain for the department. After the village rallied around the family when his youngest daughter was sick, McTrustry felt like volunteering with the department was his chance to give back.

His next goal is to continue to give back as village manager. When he took the position, his goals were to grow the relationship between the schools and village, support village programs and apply for grants to upgrade infrastructure.

Although he said the transition has been difficult, he is grateful for all of the support he’s gotten from council clerk Misti Martin, finance director Traci Thompson and everyone that has helped him during the process.

Through stress and a non-stop schedule, McTrustry has always found comfort in his favorite things: his family, his faith and his community.

“I love East Palestine,” McTrustry said. “I’ve lived all over the world, and this is a very special community.”

slendak@mojonews.com

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