Niles mayor retires, cites ‘personal reasons’
By Jordan Cohen
After serving more than half of his four-year term, Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia has retired citing “personal reasons” for leaving office.
“The residents elected me to leave this city better [than] when I came in office. … I believe I have done that,” Scarnecchia wrote in his letter to council President Barry Steffey Jr. announcing his decision. The mayor’s retirement was effective at the close of business Monday.
Steffey, who becomes acting mayor, told reporters in a news conference Tuesday he was not surprised by Scarnecchia’s decision and would not speculate on the reasons behind it.
“He felt it was best and the city would move on,” Steffey said. “I didn’t ask detailed questions.”
Scarnecchia, 76, has stated on several occasions he has “health issues.” He did not respond to several phone messages from The Vindicator requesting additional comment.
Steffey, 49, will serve as acting mayor until Niles’ 12 Democratic precinct committee members select a person to fulfill the rest of Scarnecchia’s term, which expires at the end of 2019.
Terry Swauger, Niles law director, said candidate selection must be completed in a 45-day period. Dan Polivka, Trumbull County party chairman and county commissioner, said the process has already started.
“We’ve set a deadline of July 3 at 4 p.m. for candidates to submit a letter of interest and a resume,” Polivka said. “I’m looking at July 17 [for the committee vote], but that’s tentative.”
Steffey will not be among the candidates.
“I do not have an interest in [becoming] full-time mayor,” he said. The council president, sales manager for a New Castle, Pa., company, said he will be able to balance the time between his occupation and responsibilities as acting mayor.
The first candidate to announce for mayor is Barry Profato, current councilman at-large. Profato ran unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate against Scarnecchia in 2015.
“I got 42 percent of the vote even though I was a write-in,” he said. “I think the time for me is now because we need leadership.”
Another possible candidate is Ed Stredney, whom Scarnecchia appointed city service director. Stredney, who attended the news conference, declined to answer directly when asked if he will seek the position.
“All I want to do at this time is talk about Tom Scarnecchia,” was his only reply.
The third name appearing on Niles-oriented social media sites is Robert Marino. The former council president made it clear he has no interest in becoming mayor.
Scarnecchia, long active in Niles politics, upset 24-year incumbent Ralph Infante in the 2015 Democratic primary before winning in the general election. Niles was already in state-declared fiscal emergency when he assumed office, but the city’s recovery plans under his administration are making progress, Steffey said.
“He can leave with his chest out and head held high,” the acting mayor said about Scarnecchia. “He did the best he could.”