Mucci faces opposition in city mayor race

STEUBENVILLE – Incumbent Mayor Domenick Mucci will face a challenge from a Republican challenger and a write-in candidate on Nov. 5.

Mucci is seeking his sixth-straight term as mayor.

He is opposed by Republican nominee Lou Arrico and write-in candidate Dawud Abdullah. Abdullah is listed as a write-in candidate on the Jefferson County board of election Website, but voters will have to write Abdullah’s name on their ballots if they want to vote for him.

The city charter sets the mayor’s annual salary at $4,900. The post covers a four-year term.

The 57-year-old Mucci has served as mayor of Steubenville since 1993 and is hoping voters recognize his experience in a time of change and transition.

“Under the city charter form of government, the mayor usually performs ceremonial duties such as presiding over meetings, greeting visitors and conducting weddings. But I have done much more as mayor, including serving as acting city manger on four different occasions. I have always given 110 percent to the city,” said Mucci.

“The city charter states that at any given time the mayor can be asked to serve as acting city manager. The mayor needs to understand the city budget and city operations,” Mucci noted.

That is an argument Mucci is using at a time of transition in the city government.

“This tenure as acting city manager is probably the most challenging time I have ever faced. When I became acting city manager in May, the city was facing a deficit for 2013 and a $1.5 million projected deficit in 2014. Through ongoing conversations and a consensus with our three city unions, we have erased the deficit for this year and have reduced the projected 2014 deficit to a little over $600,000. And, I am continuing to work hard with our finance department, our department heads and our city employees to balance next year’s budget. The projections are looking good at this point,” Mucci remarked.

“As the acting city manager, I have also assumed the duties of recreation director in order to save money. If we continue our cost savings efforts, we will balance our 2014 budget. Our finance director is currently on maternity leave, so I have been overseeing the finance office as part of my acting city manager duties,” Mucci cited.

“I believe my experience is crucial for the city. City Council is in the process of searching for a new city manager. If they hire a new manager by mid-November, the new person will be assuming his or her duties by late November and they will need someone to help guide them as they get to know the community. Sometimes change is good, but this time we need change with real experience. My knowledge of local government and my contacts with state and federal officials have helped us in the past and will continue to benefit the city. Change may be good, but history also is important when deciding on leadership in the city,” declared Mucci.

“My goals if re-elected are to continue building consensus in the city, the safety in our community and the economic opportunities we have in Steubenville. As Jefferson County Regional Planning director, I have worked hard to identify brownfield sites that are available for development. The former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. Steubenville plant site is a prime example that is now ready for development and new jobs,” Mucci said.

“I also believe we need to explore sharing services with other communities and the county as the population numbers drops. I still believe we will have opportunities in the oil and gas industry. Jefferson County has a dry gas while other counties have wet gas. But the opportunity will be there for us in the future,” noted Mucci.

“We are also seeing several street projects that are under way that will enhance transportation in the city and improve our community. We do have challenges as we move forward. You never know when you will need a mayor to step into the role of acting city manager. But you will want that mayor to have the experience to take on the extra duties. It takes a certain type of person to provide the leadership we need in our city,” concluded Mucci.

Arrico is a 29-year-old city resident who campaigned four years ago for the mayor’s job.

“I learned a lot in that first campaign and have continued to learn during the past four years. I think there are several key issues facing the city as we prepare for 2014 including deficit spending, crime in the city and carrying out the new comprehensive plan as well as transparency in city government. I believe we should use social media to get out the message about our city government and a more direct way of communications to those not on social media. But we need more transparency about what happens in our city government. I think Facebook can be helpful in spreading news about the city,” stated Arrico.

“I believe there is a lack of leadership from the current mayor. He is no longer taking responsibility to tackle issues. There is a crime problem in the city and I believe the mayor should be looking to other cities and asking how they resolved their crime issues. Other communities may have ideas our city needs to explore,” Arrico remarked.

“I also believe there is a real opportunity to make a difference in Steubenville. We have two new council members who will be taking office on Jan. 1 and we can have a new mayor in office as well. This is a good time to move forward and work together to reduce the city’s fiscal deficit and reduce crime in our city,” Arrico said.

“We will also have a new city manager starting soon and now is the time to move the city forward in a new direction. Change is needed and I believe I can bring the positive change we need in Steubenville,” commented Arrico.

“You can’t beat experience. But I think the type of experience is also important to the community. I have been working the past several years in the gas and oil industry. I have negotiated million-dollar land leases and I am responsible for reviewing legal documents with land owners. When I worked at the Art Academy in Pittsburgh, I was responsible for helping students obtain financial aid in order to attend school,” explained Arrico.

“Look at the late 1990s. The county commissioners were facing a tight budget, so they cut 10 percent of their budget without cutting services. I am ready to go through the city budget line by line without affecting the quality of life in the city,” Arrico said.

“Steubenville is the most populated community in the county and we are the county seat. A sharing of services and working together can make sense. If an idea can save money, we need to look at it. I have been out talking to city residents who are seeking leadership in city government,” Arrico said.

“Our city infrastructure isn’t getting any younger. I would like to know why there hasn’t been a capital improvement program put in place years ago. Too many people have told me they don’t know what is going on with their city government. I believe the city council and mayor has a responsibility to let people in the city know what is happening with our local government,” Arrico stated.

“The city is doing the right thing by having community discussions on fixing Lovers Lane. I believe we should take our time and do the project the right way. And, we should be fiscally responsible as we prepare for the Lovers Lane project,” commented Arrico.

“I think you take it upon yourself to be more of a leader when you are elected mayor. The mayor should be a leader and listen to the ideas of the people,” declared Arrico.

“Not many young people want to get involved with government. I want to get involved and make a difference. I have new ideas and a new vision that I want to bring to Steubenville. If I don’t win this race I want to stay involved. I am excited to see how city government works and I believe more young people should step up to help lead our community,” said Arrico.

Abdullah acknowledged he is running a nontraditional campaign while seeking the mayor’s job.

“I’m running for change. It’s that simple. I want to bring fresh, new ideas to the mayor’s office. I want to see a new direction in our city and a new face as mayor,” declared Abdullah.

The 50-year-old Abdullah is a native of Steubenville, “born and raised,” but said he has also lived in other communities in the country.

“If I am elected mayor of Steubenville my first goals after taking office will be employment across the board, a youth development program for our children to get involved with so they don’t end up dead or incarcerated. We want our children to stay here and be successful, but we need to offer them a better choice,” explained Abdullah.

His third goal if he becomes mayor is, “bringing life back to the community.”

“I want to hear different ideas from people in the community. Too often we do the same things because that is what has always been done. And, maybe someone doesn’t want to try something new. For example, we may be considering a new program for the youth but we don’t ask the youth what they think. Start asking people what they want in the city. And be ready to listen to the residents,” urged Abdullah.

“We also need to see what is working in other communities in our region. Wheeling is a city on the move on a positive mission. Let’s look at what is working there and see if it can work in Steubenville,” he noted.

“We also need events and campaigns that are family friendly. This is not always a family friendly community. We need to unite our families whenever we can. And, we need to expand on all of our cultures and likes. Be ready to offer something for different tastes. We need to look outside of the box,” commented Abdullah.

“We also need to embrace education including training for people interested in the trade crafts. Not everyone is interested in pursuing a four-year degree, and that’s OK. Some people are more interested in learning a trade. Encourage those youth to pursue that as a career and then work to bring those jobs to the city,” Abdullah stated.

Abdullah has been known as a community activist for years and cites the B.A.S.I.C Circle, African-American Festival, Minority Health Month, Back-to-School Rally and community gardens as several of his projects.

“I didn’t get involved in these community organizations in order to run for office. I got involved because I care about and love the community. I have always tried to be an example for our youth,” said Abdullah.

He said that’s why he wants to bring his clothing business back to Steubenville.

“I had the Univer-soul Flavor clothing store and I would like to bring it back. It’s hard to encourage kids to think about starting their own business when I don’t have one,” he remarked.

Abdullah has always stayed busy and is currently taking classes at Eastern Gateway Community College as well as working two part-time jobs.

“I consider myself an outgoing, down-to-earth, very well balanced and spiritual human being. I am also very caring and loving,” offered Abdullah.

And as for his nontraditional political campaign, Abdullah said he does plan to use social media during the campaign.

“I am also relying on being elected by the people and for the people. I do have a group of residents who are ready to go door-to-door and event-to-event to get the word out about my campaign for mayor. And, I will have people at the polls on election day to make sure people who want to vote for me know it is a write-in vote. And they will have to spell my name correctly on the ballot,” Abdullah said.

“I am not looking at doing things the way the old guard did everything. It is time for a new way of life in Steubenville. But remember if you want me to win you, have to write me in,” stated Abdullah.