Mucci closing 36-year chapter in Steubenville’s political history

Dave Gossett THE LAST HURRAH — Mayor Domenick Mucci responded to a caller while sitting in his City Hall office. Mucci will retire from the job he has held for the past 25 years on Sunday and start a life in retirement. But Mucci said he will be a phone call away and would like to remain a positive voice in the city he has served. -- Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Domenick Mucci spent part of his Christmas weekend packing up mementos, photos and memories from his 36-year political career.

He spent 11 years as a city councilman and the past 25 years as mayor of Steubenville, where he was born and grew up learning the art of politics. He announced in January he would not seek re-election to a seventh term this year.

“When I gavelled our first meeting to order on Jan. 3, I got a little emotional as I realized I was starting my 25th year as mayor of Steubenville. I have no doubt in my mind I would have won re-election again. I have been blessed by the citizens of Steubenville who have showed their support for me over the past years. I have had an excellent career, and I would not change a thing,” noted Mucci.

“I was born here and plan to remain in Steubenville. I will stay involved here and will participate in the community and will, hopefully, help play a role in helping others,” continued Mucci.

“I ran for Democratic Party precinct committeeman when I was 19 years old and right out of high school. My family owned a printing company, and we did a lot of political print jobs because we were a union shop. I would listen to the people seeking office who would talk about their jobs. I had a conversation with my dad and said, ‘I think I could do that job,'” recalled Mucci.

“Pete McKeegan was running for the county Democratic Party chairmanship, and my Uncle Vince Zorbini asked me to run for precinct committeeman so I could support Mr. McKeegan. That was my first door-to-door campaign. After that, I helped create the local Young Democrats Club and later was elected president of the Ohio Young Democrats Club,” continued Mucci.

He was building friendships and alliances locally, so when 2nd Ward Councilman Ross Monaco let it be known he was not going to seek re-election, Mucci was positioned to run for his first public office.

“Third Ward Councilman Anthony ‘Jeep’ Cafero encouraged me to go for the 2nd Ward seat. That started my 11 years as a councilman. In 1993 Mayor Dave Hindman was elected to a county commissioner job, and I stepped into the mayor’s job. And after 25 years I truly believe I gave 100 percent to the mayor’s job,” said Mucci.

“Some days it can be exhausting. Dolores Wiggins talked at last week’s City Council meeting about my attendance at all of the local African-American church events. That and attending other events in the city are what I enjoyed the most — listening to citizens express their concerns about an issue or their views on the city. I felt it was important for the mayor to be out in the community and bringing those comments back to the city administration,” remarked Mucci.

“I worked under both forms of government, the strong mayor government and then later the city manager form of government. This is now a ceremonial office, but the mayor should be out listening to people. This job can be so much more than just presiding over council meetings, cutting ribbons and performing weddings,” noted Mucci.

He also can recite a numerical history of his 36 years in public life including, “serving under seven different city managers.”

“I worked with more than 50 City Council members during my career. I worked with three different mayors, served as acting city manager on six different occasions and presided over more than 1,800 council meetings, 59 special council meetings, 2,000 council committee meetings, performed 2,200 weddings and attended some 5,000 community events. It’s now time for me to move on,” said Mucci.

“I have always been honest with people and if I didn’t know the answer, I would say so. We need to think regionally and consider the Ohio River as an asset and not a barrier, be flexible and participate in community events,” said Mucci.

“When I was first elected to City Council, I was nervous. But, I had good mentors on council, especially Coleman Mullins. In those days we were facing challenges in our community development and moving low-income housing out of the downtown area and across the city. Coleman Mullins approached me and told me to ‘make a decision and stand by it and know you made the right decision.’ I was lucky to have a lot of teachers in my life,” remarked Mucci.

“I always felt it was important to keep the city in a positive light. We have had our share of issues through the years, but I never gave up,” he said.

Listening to Mucci during a 90-minute editorial board meeting in January when he announced his decision to retire was a walk down memory lane in local history.

“I remember the telephone call I received at home on Dec. 25, 1995, from The Associated Press telling me we had lost Dean Martin. They wanted to know my thoughts, and I immediately told the reporter we would hold a celebration on his birthday. After I hung up the phone, I realized I didn’t know when his birthday was. So I called his relative, and she told me it was June 7, so I knew I had some time to get something organized,” Mucci said.

“The city’s bicentennial was in 1997, and I told a group of friends I would like to have 97 events. They told me it couldn’t happen, but we did it throughout that year,” said Mucci.

“I started thinking about not seeking re-election late last year and made a final decision in January. Twenty-five years is a long time in office and a long time away from my family. Every year my family would have a reunion over in Follansbee, but I stayed in Steubenville for the annual Fourth of July activities. It is now time to relax, take a break and spend time with my family. I am looking forward to taking a break and relaxing. But if I am called upon, I will be willing to do anything I can for this community. I have always said I am a public servant, not a perfect servant. I love this city and the people who live here,” he said.

Mucci retired after eight years as director of the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission one year ago.

“Mayor-elect Jerry Barilla has asked me to stay on the Ohio Mid-Eastern Government Association. I am on the OMEGA executive board and will continue to represent Steubenville and Jefferson County on that board,” explained Mucci.

“I suppose I will get comfortable in retirement. It will be nice to plan vacations with family and friends, and I have some work at my house to do. I have no regrets regarding my decision to not seek re-election. I plan to stay involved in economic development in some fashion and will remain a positive voice for the city. I want people to know if I am needed I am just a phone call away. I have no plans to run for office again … at least not at this time,” said Mucci.