By David Skolnick
As mayor of Youngstown, a city continuously facing many challenges, Jay Williams knows there is never a good time to leave office.
Regardless, the second-term mayor is leaving effective Aug. 1 to become the auto czar.
“There are always major decisions that are being made,” he said. “They happen all the time.”
Inheriting the responsibility of running the city is longtime council President Charles Sammarone. The city charter calls for the council president to succeed the mayor if the latter resigns.
Samma-rone will serve the rest of Williams’ term, which expires Dec. 31, 2013.
Among the key items on Sammarone’s agenda are:
Finding a new police chief.
Jimmy Hughes’ last day as police chief is Aug. 31.
“To me, the main issue is selecting a police chief,” Sammarone said. “That’s No. 1.”
After discussing the possibility of hiring a consulting firm for a national search, Williams opted to use the services of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, a nonprofit organization composed of police executives, to help find candidates. That search is about to start. Sammarone expects to talk to Williams about the process in a day or two.
Convening a charter- review commission.
The commission is to propose changes to the city’s charter.
Williams envisioned small items, such as giving extra credit to city residents taking civil-service tests for city jobs, on the November ballot.
More significant items, such as restructuring city council and changing the city’s form of government, are possibilities for next year.
Considering the revival of the joint economic development districts proposal with Austintown and Boardman.
Township officials oppose the plan because it would tax those working in the two communities with most of the money going to Youngstown.
Though a charter-review commission and JEDDs are important, Sammarone said they can wait.
Developing a new zoning code to replace the last one, written in 1969.
The city is having a series of meetings to get public input into the plan with city council adoption expected in December.
“All council members provided input on the plan,” said Sammarone, who supports the change.
Negotiating a possible deal to switch food-and-beverage vendors at the city-owned Covelli Centre.
Sammarone supports the change.
Finding a new law director.
The current law director, Iris Torres Guglucello, has said she is “pretty close to retirement.” She’s expected to leave in the next month or two.
Sammarone said he’s prepared to make the important decisions as well as run the day-to-day operations of the city’s government.
Sammarone said he’ll meet shortly with Williams to “discuss the issues facing the city.”
Though he will look to Williams for advice and information, Sammarone said, “All final decisions will be up to me.”
“We’ll bring Chuck up to speed,” Williams said. “It doesn’t obligate Chuck to move in any direction. He’s familiar with a lot of these initiatives. Chuck, as council president, meets with me to discuss these issues.”
Finance Director David Bozanich said Sammarone is “aware of most of the issues and the direction we’re moving. It will be his choice to continue or modify. I’ve got a good working relationship with Chuck.”
One noticeable change when Sammarone becomes mayor will be the role of city council.
Sammarone, council president for nearly 18 years, said, “Council will have a say in every decision made at city hall. Any problem the city faces, council will have input, except emergencies like a waterline break” and hirings.
Williams keeps council members apprised of various issues but has repeatedly said it’s the administration’s job to run the day-to-day operations of the city and council’s job to legislate.
Council members said they are extremely pleased with Sammarone’s replacing Williams.
“I don’t think you can find a better guy in the climate we’re in to continue to lead the city,” said Councilman Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rd, who served as Williams’ campaign manager during the 2005 mayoral election. “The learning curve [for Sammarone] is not that great. He understands what council needs.”
Sammarone describes himself as a “no-nonsense individual,” admitting he raises his voice, at times, during talks that can sometimes get heated.
“When I don’t like what’s being said or if I have to repeat something five or six times then the fifth or sixth time I’m going to get loud,” Sammarone said. “I don’t get angry. I get loud. Some people are selective in what they want to hear.”
Guglucello says Sammarone “definitely has strong opinions on a lot of” issues.
Sammarone said the city’s economic development plans are solid, and he will continue to follow Williams’ policies as well as work to cut spending and maintain basic city services.
As for any changes in the mayor’s cabinet, Sammarone said he’ll talk with various department heads.
“If we agree, they’ll probably stay,” he said. “If we don’t agree and they’re not willing to work with me, they probably won’t stay.”