The Youngstown Business Journal
By Andrea Wood

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Tim Ryan is looking forward to 2013, touting Jay Williams as a possible member of President Obama’s cabinet should he win a second term. Chuck Sammarone is looking ahead to 2013 as well — Dec. 31, 2013 to be precise, the day when his role as caretaker mayor will end.  The political horizon in the Mahoning Valley changed overnight Wednesday with the appointment of Williams, the city’s mayor since 2005, as the Obama Administration’s so-called auto czar. The announcement catapulted Williams into a high-profile and politically advantageous role as a top player on the president’s team, advanced the 68-year-old Sammarone, president of city council, into the mayor’s office after Williams resigns Aug. 1, and solidified Ryan’s reputation here and in Washington as the most powerful congressman the Valley has elected since the 30-year reign of Michael J. Kirwan that began 75 years ago. “The sky’s the limit for Jay [Williams], and I think this is an opportunity that could eventually make him a cabinet member — secretary of HUD, secretary of transportation, should Obama get a second term,” Ryan, D-17 Ohio, told reporters Wednesday.  The congressman “lobbied the secretary of labor for a year” to appoint Williams to the position, which “Jay got on his merits,” he emphasized. The appointment not only is “a huge win” for Obama, “very smart politically,” Ryan said, it also demonstrates how far the Mahoning Valley’s economic recovery has come in the last 20 years.  “For Obama to say, ‘The auto bailout did work. Ask Jay Williams what happened at [General Motors] Lordstown. Hey, the stimulus did work. Ask Jay Williams about the $25 million that was used to leverage $650 million plus at V&M [Star’s expansion project]. Look at what they’re doing with technology in Youngstown — in-sourcing jobs from India, moving a San Francisco technology company to Youngstown.’ Jay can cover all those bases and really be an advocate for the president,” he said. But before Williams leaves the mayor’s office, there’s still the matter of transitioning to his replacement which, according to the city charter, is the president of city council. “I’m prepared for it,” Sammarone told The Business Journal Wednesday morning. “I’ve got a lot of years with city government, working with city council, so I know the system well, I’ve prepared myself through the years in case this ever happened.” Sammarone, a former teacher, football coach and school administrator, began his political career in 1984 when he was elected to council from the fifth ward. Six years later he was elected president of council, then 12 years later was named water commissioner. He served four years in the administration of former Mayor George McKelvey, then ran again for president of council the same year that Williams was first elected mayor. “I know the people who are supposed to clean the streets, I know the policemen who are supposed to protect our community against crime, I know the firemen, I know who’s there, I know what they’re supposed to do,” Sammarone said. “I am a past administrator in the school system so I have experience as administrator. I always believe that an administrator should make sure the people you’re administrating do their job.” Sammarone declined to speculate on whether “major changes, or any changes” in the mayor’s office would be forthcoming. “I’ve got to look at where we’re at,” he said. “The important thing we have to do is increase our revenue, decrease our spending and continue to give basic service to the taxpayers of Youngstown.” The next mayor said he will continue to implement the Youngstown 2010 plan, keep the focus on demolition of vacant, dilapidated housing and continue the city’s economic development incentives and initiatives. What he’s not likely to continue — only a “1% chance,” he says — is staying in the mayor’s office beyond the completion of Williams’ term on Dec. 31, 2013. That sets the stage for two years of City Hall jockeying in advance of the next mayoral election — and positioning Williams for another big job. “Not that it’s all about the money but it would be nice to have a cabinet level official from the Mahoning Valley,” Ryan says. “The opportunities would just be endless for us.”

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