STEUBENVILLE - David "Pokey" Lalich will step down from his Sixth Ward City Council seat on Nov. 30, one month before his term officially ends.
Lalich said his decision to retire one month early, after 16 years as a councilman, was based on the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System and a personal realization that, "it is time to go."
"I will probably miss it. I know I will miss the people. And I will miss the inside knowledge and what is going on in the city. Sixteen years as a ward councilman is a long time," remarked Lalich.
END OF AN ERA — Steubenville Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich will step down from his position after 16 years on the job. Lalich said he will retire as a city councilman on Nov. 30 to enjoy more time with his granddaughters Sofia Rose lalich and Isabella Grace Lalich. - Dave Gossett
"I may still go to a couple council meetings. There is still some legislation I'm interested in," he added.
After several months of issuing personal warnings and starting a community conversation with his proposed flat water rate fee, Lalich saw the city council accept the idea of an increase in the city customers' water bills.
"It is a necessity. We have seen break after break in our water line distribution system. That is just the infrastructure that needed help. Our finance department is projecting the water fund will see a $400,000 deficit next year. So my idea was to create a special fund for replacing our water lines throughout the city. We have water pipes that are 60, 70 or even 100 years old. We can't just ignore them any longer. The Rural Community Assistance Program took my idea one step further by increasing the rate hike to $6.50 a month so we are creating the improvement fund and also dealing with the growing water fund deficit," explained Lalich.
"I won't be in office for the final vote on the water increase but I plan on being at that council meeting," he noted.
Lalich was a veteran steelworker at the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation when he first decided to run for local office.
"I had taken a tour of the statehouse in Columbus and the woman giving the tour mentioned there are 87 counties in Ohio and Jefferson County. I felt we were kind of an outcast county. I wanted to change the image of our community so I decided to run for city council," Lalich recalled.
"I didn't know what I was doing. I had never run for office before. It was all new to me. I bought plywood board to paint signs. Then I found out later I could have bought signs.," Lalich laughed.
"When I was first elected I was nervous at first. I really didn't know what I was getting into," Lalich admitted.
It would take Lalich 18 months to become comfortable in his role as a councilman.
"I learned so much from people during my time on the council. I learned a lot about government, people and business. And I am still learning. I can never learn enough," remarked Lalich.
Lalich spent 35-years at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and 32 years with a home improvement company before seeking public office.
"The one project I take personal pride in was helping to save the Market Street Bridge. Former Follansbee Mayor Tony Paesano and I met with former state senator Ed Bowman to talk about how we could save that bridge. We put together a group of people to work on the project and Paesano and Bowman talked to the governor in Charleston. I went to Fred Brower at Trinity Health System to find out how many people traveled that bridge every year to go to the hospital in Steubenville and together we were successful in having the bridge maintained and still open," related Lalich.
"I am also proud of my efforts to obtain state money for the Johnson Road project. I went to Columbus and talked to a number of people and we received $200,000 for the work. I bought sausage at Frederico's to take to Columbus and Joy Padgett told me I was the first person to bring the pork to Columbus," he added.
Another project Lalich has watched for years is the proposed expansion of Lovers Lane.
Lalich also noted he reached out to the oil industry, trying to attract interest in the former city landfill near the Jefferson County Airpark.
"We have an ordinance in place prohibiting drilling in the city limits but we were successful in getting an oil company agree to a lease for potential drilling at the old landfill that netted the city money," said Lalich.
Lalich said the one regret he has is a failure to see the downtown business district revitalized.
"When I first came on council I approached the city manager at the time and asked him to borrow $15 million to take down old dilapidated buildings in the downtown and to start over with a new green space and attractive buildings. We are often portrayed as a boarded up downtown. Visitors paint a bleak picture of our city. I wish we had started revitalizing our downtown 16 years ago. It would have looked a lot different today," stated Lalich.
"It will be hard to walk away from City Council on Nov. 30. I love this city and the people who live here. Yes, I may stop down every so often to watch the council in action. I found two people who have served as my mentors during my 16 years on the council. I would meet with them to get their thoughts on an issue. And I would try to get the pulse of the community as well," advised Lalich.
"I never dreamed I would serve on the Steubenville for 16 years. I was a kid running the streets in downtown Steubenville and thinking about playing football at Catholic Central. I believe Steubenville has a bright future. Franciscan University of Steubenville has plans for developing the old city golf course and the Green Strip. I would like to see the university expand into the downtown area. They are a key player in the future of the community. I hope the renovation of the Holy Name Cathedral will help lead the redevelopment of the city's south end," declared Lalich.
"I hope they still let me into the city building so I can get a cup of coffee," commented Lalich with a smile.