WELLSVILLE - Economic development and urban blight were amongst the topics of discussion when Mayor Susan Haugh welcomed state Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-33) to Wellsville on Wednesday afternoon.
Schiavoni was making various stops around the county to familiarize himself with his new constituency. His itinerary included sitting in on a county commissioners' meeting and visits with officials from St. Clair Township and the county Board of Elections.
Following a contentious redistricting process in 2011, Columbiana County joined Mahoning County in the 33rd state Senate District, effective Jan. 1 of this year. The move makes Schiavoni the new state senator for Columbiana County. He was sworn in last week for the opening of the 130th Ohio General Assembly.
Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh (right) points out a blighted house in need of demolition during a tour of the village by state Sen Joe Schiavoni (left), who now represents Columbiana County in the redrawn 33rd District of Ohio. They were joined by Knox Township trustee Gregory Carver (center) during the village tour. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Schiavoni has represented the 33rd District since being appointed by former state Senator John Boccieri, who vacated the seat in 2008 to run for the 16th District House of Representatives seat in Congress. Schiavoni was reelected in 2010 and currently serves as assistant Senate minority leader.
The senator was able to find similarities between the Youngstown area, where he was raised and still lives, and the community of Wellsville. Both are populated with hard-working people whose hometowns have fallen into decline over the last few decades, he stated. At age 33, he said he is among the generation that has never seen the "glory days" that are spoken of in such areas.
Schiavoni is encouraged, however, by the increasing number of people who are choosing to stay in the communities and raise families rather than moving away. "I think there's a newfound confidence and positive attitude," he said.
Mayor Haugh agreed and said the twin problems of blight and drugs are the two greatest challenges facing in Wellsville. To demonstrate the problem, Haugh stopped in front of an empty dilapidated house on Main Street at the 18th Street railroad crossing during a tour of the village.
"We have to get control of this before we're going to move forward," she said.
The tour group, which included Haugh, Schiavoni, village administrator Thom Edgell, councilman John Morrow and Gregory Carver, a Knox Township trustee, also stopped at the Wellsville Intermodal Park. Haugh said she was glad to also put the recent successes of Wellsville on display for the senator.
For his part, Schiavoni cited the facility as an example of what can happen when local leaders work together to bring development to the area. "They're desperate to have a good relationship with their state and federal officials, so that we can make projects like this work," he said.
Haugh said her core message to Schiavoni was just to remember that Wellsville is still working hard to rebuild itself, and can use whatever assistance he is able to provide. According to Schiavoni, that's a something the mayor can count on. "I want to be a part of this community as if I lived here," he said.