'I knew it was time,' Scarnecchia says
By JORDAN COHEN
Thomas Scarnecchia, who suddenly retired Monday 30 months into his four-year term as Niles mayor, said a recent hospital stay was the catalyst for his decision to leave office.
“I was in the hospital for a week, and when I got home, I knew it was time,” said Scarnecchia in an exclusive interview Wednesday with The Vindicator. “You know I’ve had health issues.”
Scarnecchia, 76, declined to describe or disclose the nature of his medical problems, but believes “the stress of the job” may have aggravated them.
“It seemed like every day the hammer fell, and there was always something new to deal with,” he said. “I saw that from my first day in office.”
When Scarnecchia took office in 2016, Niles had already been in state-declared fiscal emergency since late 2014. Its recovery plan was not getting results according to the fiscal commission required to oversee city spending. During his tenure, the plan has been modified several times, and the former mayor is happy with what he feels he has achieved.
“I think Niles is in the best shape it’s been in years,” he said. “When you think about what we had to face when I got here, I feel good about how far we’ve come.”
There was no disagreement with Scarnecchia’s evaluation during council’s meeting Wednesday – the first without Scarnecchia and with Barry Steffey Jr., council president, as acting mayor. Ryan McNaughton, D-at large, council president pro-tem for the meeting, praised the retired mayor’s job performance.
“He wound up stepping into a great pile of stuff” when he first took office, said McNaughton, who agreed with Scarnecchia’s assessment that Niles’ economic situation has improved during his tenure. “There are bumps in the road, but we are in better shape.”
“He did a hell of a job considering what he was facing,” said Councilman Michael Lastic, D-at large.
The newly retired Scarnecchia expressed gratitude for the “many people who supported me” and plans to rest as much as possible, but admitted he is still coming to terms with his decision to leave.
“I still feel like I have to go to the office tomorrow,” he said.
Steffey said Niles is “in transition” as the city awaits selection by the 12 Democratic precinct committee members of the next mayor to fill Scarnecchia’s unexpired term. Thus far, the only announced candidate is Councilman Barry Profato, D-at large. Ed Stredney, city service director, has declined comment on whether he will seek the office. Other possible candidates have been mentioned on Niles social media sites, but none have declared for the office.
Candidates have until July 3 to apply for the position. Dan Polivka, Trumbull County commissioner and county Democratic party chairman, has set a tentative date of July 17 for the vote.