New mayor, two new council members join Canfield government
By Billy Ludt
Two new faces will join two incumbents on city council in January, and the city also will have a new mayor.
Former naval officer and lifelong Canfield resident Richard Duffett won the election for mayor against opponent and current council President Don Dragish Jr.
Incumbents Charles Tieche and John Morvay retained seats on council and will be joined by Christine Lucarell Oliver and Bruce Neff.
Duffett received 1,753 votes in Tuesday’s election, and Dragish received 1,125.
“I think one of the things with the mayor is you become a salesman for the city,” Duffett said. “One of our jobs is to expand the economic base. I feel very strongly that Canfield is a great city, so I feel I can sell it to others.”
Expanding the economic base without imposing additional taxes on residents was at the top of Duffett’s priority list in his campaign. The goal is to bring select businesses to the city, unlike big-box stores, he said.
Duffett said his campaign slogan – “Strengthening relationships for a strong tomorrow” – means he wants city government to maintain relationships with the schools, residents and township government.
Duffett decided to run for mayor after attending council meetings. The prospect of running mayor’s court piqued his interest, Duffett said, since he has experience as a legal officer while serving in the Navy.
“I’m thrilled to be the mayor of my hometown,” he said.
Duffett is taking over for Mayor Bernie Kosar Sr., who did not run for re-election. This is Duffett’s first time winning a seat in public office.
Dragish will no longer hold an elected position on council in January.
“Obviously, I’m not going to be in city politics anymore,” he said. “Come January, I’m going to concentrate on my family and my business.”
Dragish runs DG&C Digital Marketing Consultants and is the public relations chairman for Canfield Rotary. Though he said he’s not planning to run for future positions in city council, Dragish said seats in Mahoning County and state government are not off the table.
Lucarell Oliver, vice president of Oliver Custom, ran for council because she wants to further her involvement in the community.
“I believe that we need to hear what our residents want,” she said. “You can’t just make decisions behind closed doors. I believe in transparency.”
Lucarell Oliver assisted with Canfield schools’ five-year strategic plan and has worked with its parent-teacher organization. She said her goal is to maintain what services the city has to offer and grow from there.
Neff, a self-proclaimed political activist and president of LED3, an LED-display distributing business based in Canfield, said the city is at a crucial time. Term limits in place in Canfield keep council members in seats for two years at a time, instead of the typical four, and the city is in the process of finding a new city manager. Neff serves on the search committee for a new city manager.
One of Neff’s priorities come January is the annexation of city-owned land in the township to the city’s jurisdiction.
“I think we have to try to be a smart community. If that land is going to be annexed and developed, we want it to have a good plan and get the right type of facilities,” he said.
The undeveloped land off Palmyra Road and U.S. Route 224 has been the subject of yearslong mediation between the city and township.