When Steve Sorah joined Cambridge City’s town council, his two sons weren’t yet born. Presley is now 20, and Vince is a Lincoln High School senior.
Town councils often have member turnover through the years for various reasons such as moving away or increased job or family obligations. When Sorah meets other town councilors, they’re usually in their few first years in office and are surprised he’s served so long.
Sorah also outlasted several Cambridge City public servants during his two-plus decades of service on council, most recently as its president.
He recalls working with five town managers, three police chiefs, three fire chiefs, three attorneys, two town clerks and 12 council members. He’s also been part of developing two town master plans.
The Lincoln High School graduate did not run for reelection last fall because he and wife Shera are moving to his childhood home after his mother’s passing. That house is just outside town limits.
The move is bittersweet for Sorah, who wishes he could remain on council.
“I’d like to give 23 more years,” he said.
Sorah said he’s willing to continue serving on the town’s cemetery board, transitioning into a community member role.
Sorah said he was 10 times more nervous at his final public council meeting in December than his first-ever meeting because his wife and sons attended.
Sorah first began learning about town government even before joining council as a member of Cambridge City’s Board of Zoning Appeals and then its plan commission.
He was inspired to get involved with town boards and council after gaining knowledge about government through his professional life.
Sorah began as a dispatcher for Hagerstown Police Department before transferring to Wayne County’s jail. He then began working in community corrections with residents undergoing house arrests and community service requirements.
In 1999, Sorah transitioned to the county plan office as an assistant plan administrator, then building inspector, deputy building commissioner and now building commissioner.
He has been able to put some of that experience to use for discussions about blight, development, utilities or other topics for the town.
Council also benefited from Sorah’s law enforcement background, appointing him to oversee the police department when he joined council, a leadership role he’s maintained.
He’s proud of CCPD and the department being the county’s first small department to hire a full-time female officer.
Another rewarding memory was driving to Washington, D.C., with current Chief Richard Roberts to recognize Marshal John Ingerman as Ingerman’s name was placed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Ingerman died in 1929 in the line of duty during a burglary attempt at a pool hall, now the home of No. 9 Grill. Sorah completed paperwork in 2006 for that honor.
Sorah said it was neat to help bring recognition to an officer’s sacrifices that were fading from public attention, and during that visit, he realized the town’s meal allowance didn’t fit Washington prices.
Sorah said he’s proud to see how the downtown has been rejuvenated in recent years. When he started on council, he remembers a lot of empty storefronts and crumbled sidewalks.
Now, the town is known for busy stores and eateries and creative murals on several buildings and has been featured as a destination in publications such as Indianapolis Monthly magazine.
“I’d like to take credit for the way Cambridge City looks, but the town can only do so much,” Sorah said.
He said the town can provide some infrastructure, but its success comes from good building owners taking pride in their businesses, volunteers watering flowers, generous donors for items such as the clock in Bicentennial Park and efforts from organizations including Cambridge City Chamber of Commerce and Cambridge City Main Street.
When Sorah meets residents of other communities and tells them where he lives, not mentioning his council role, he said they always say Cambridge City is a nice town.
“That’s because of everyone’s involvement, not just council,” Sorah said. “It’s everybody.”
After working with a variety of council members, Sorah said he believes no one’s had a personal agenda, and despite different methods and ideas, they’ve all wanted what’s best for the town.
Sorah said he recalls only missing 3 meetings in 23 years.
After COVID, members could call in to participate from remote locations. Once, he called in from the roof of the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, while looking at the ocean.
He said it will be unusual not seeing his fellow council members at least monthly, but he can fill those meeting times now by watching “Andy Griffith” reruns.
He said that council’s new members, Gary Cole and Jim King, are good people and they’ll learn the ropes quickly, and town attorney Bob Bever “won’t let us make a mistake — he’s our safety net.”
Clerk-Treasurer Sherry Ervin has enjoyed the last 12 years with Sorah and said she’ll miss his stories and laughter. She said it makes her sad to think that a “huge asset” has left and considers herself lucky to have a great team of council members.
“I have always respected the decisions made by Steve as he would vote for what he believes would be right for the town,” Ervin said.
A version of this article appeared in the January 17 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.