The very first woman to be elected a Blair County Commissioner is also one of the youngest and longest-serving commissioners.
We don’t have enough time to list all of Donna Gority’s accolades, but her life of service to the community has helped her make history:
As a SUNY Oswego College student, Donna Dicker had dreams of pursuing a career in education.
“My plans were to be an elementary teacher or a junior high math teacher,” she says.
But there were bigger plans ahead.
Donna Dicker married Altoona native John Gority in 1973.
As a Gority, she moved to Blair County.
“One of the first things I did when I moved to Altoona was go with my husband to an organizational meeting for Young Democrats,” Donna said.
Her knack for note-taking got her nominated to be Secretary at that very meeting which led to more committees and community activities. One involved observing city council meetings, which made her think…
“Those men up there are older than I am but they don’t appear to be smarter than I am. I’m planning to raise my children here so I really care about the community so they’re probably no more dedicated to the community than I am. Maybe I could be a candidate or something myself,” recalls Donna.
County Commissioners oversee millions of dollars in human services funds, something she was passionate about.
So, at the last minute when there was an opening she decided to run in the 1984 County Commissioners election.
“Amazingly to everyone’s shock and dismay I beat the incumbent Democrat and got elected,” says Donna.
“I was 34 years old, had two young daughters, didn’t grow up in Altoona, Blair County and it was absolutely amazing that I became the first woman to become the county commissioner here.”
After a successful 28 year career as a County Commissioner, she retired in 2012.
Her portrait now hangs in the Blair County Courthouse.
To her surprise, the Donna D. Dority Servant Leadership Award was created in honor of her service.
“It was wonderful. It was a real, a real nice affirmation of the work that I had done,” says Donna.
And in 2017, she was the first and currently the only woman to receive the Central Blair Recreation Commission Respected Citizen Award. It was a memorable and special moment in her life.
“My dad, who I said just passed a year ago yesterday. I got the award two years ago. He was able to be here with us. And my brother. So it was wonderful,” Donna says emotionally.
When you talk to Donna about the life and legacy she’s created in Blair County and beyond, it’s clear it’s not about the awards.
“This is the community that I chose and I want to do my little piece to make it a little bit better than it was when I first moved here. So that’s what always driven me,” says Donna.
Donna wants her life of service to inspire others to step up.
Find a place in the community to make a difference.
“Don’t hesitate if you think you have something to give, offer it out there, put yourself out there get involved,” advises Donna.
Donna is proud of how far Blair County and Downtown Altoona has come in the last 30 years.
She is still involved in many community organizations but has scaled back.
Donna says she now plans to prioritize her time with her husband, John.