Canfield voters choose Dragish as next mayor

Canfield Mayor-elect Don Dragish
Canfield Mayor-elect Don Dragish

Don Dragish found success in his second run for mayor of Canfield.

Dragish, a former city councilperson and self-employed businessman who owns Dragish Marketing, received 45.4% of the vote (1,021 votes) in Tuesday’s general election, according to unofficial results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

Dragish in 2017 unsuccessfully ran against current Mayor Richard Duffett, who announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election. But Dragish on Tuesday won the seat from challengers Bruce Neff, a current city councilperson, and Kathryn Young, a city parks official.

“Obviously, I ran a good race. Everybody ran a good race. At the end of the day, I was really happy to see that Canfield chose me as the next mayor of Canfield,” Dragish told Mahoning Matters by phone after the night’s final results came in.

During a September informational session on Canfield ballot items, Dragish repeated his campaign slogan, “Let’s Keep Canfield, Canfield.”

Neff, a self-described “progressive” candidate, received 40.6% of the vote (913 votes). He told Mahoning Matters he was disappointed in Tuesday’s results.

“I think I ran a pretty clean and straightforward race,” he said.

Neff will retain his seat on city council, which will be up for re-election in 2023.

Kathryn Young, a former accountant and a co-chair of the city’s parks and recreation board, received 14% of the vote (314 votes).

She did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Though the mayor is largely ceremonial in Canfield’s city manager-style government, the person in that seat still wields a council vote. During recent interviews with Mahoning Matters, all the mayoral candidates prioritized redevelopment in the city.

Dragish said he’d advocate for some new development to happen in Canfield in his first year as mayor. He proposed redevelopment of the former IGA grocery store along Broad Street, as well as a new Canfield wellness center, offering athletic and exercise space for residents of all ages.

Dragish said he’d push for more jobs in the city, to boost its tax base instead of having to go “back to the pocketbooks of the people.” He also called for better incentives to attract new businesses. Right now, it costs less to build in Canfield Township than in the city, he said.

During Dragish’s term on city council, he helped establish the city’s first Joint Economic Development District agreement, which paved the way for the Windsor House at Canfield skilled nursing facility at the corner of U.S. Route 62 and state Route 446, he said in September.

Charter changes chucked

City voters on Tuesday also rejected three proposed amendments to the city’s charter.

One proposed amendment would have created a new section of the charter allowing voters to remove the city manager from office, but only after the manager has spent at least six months in the role. The removal vote would function like a recall election for an elected official.

That measure failed Tuesday, with objection from 58.8% of voters (1,336 votes), and support from only 41.2 percent of voters (935 votes).

Another proposed amendment would have prohibited the city’s “managerial” employees from putting city funds or resources — including work time — toward political efforts, like the nomination of candidates or levy campaigns.

That measure failed, with objection from 54.6% of voters (1,233 votes), and support from only 45.4 percent of voters (1,024 votes).

A third proposed amendment would have changed term limitations for city council members, allowing them to serve no more than two consecutive two-year terms. Currently, the charter allows council members and the mayor to serve up to four consecutive four-year terms.

That measure failed, with objection from 55.7% of voters (1,270 votes), and support from only 44.3% of voters (1,011 votes).

Representatives of the Utility Workers Union of America, which represents several city employees, coordinated the campaign to put the charter amendments up for voters approval, following failed labor negotiations.

The charter issues quickly became a community flashpoint, after union representatives accused City Manager Wade Calhoun of threatening city employees who supported the movement.

Dragish told Mahoning Matters he’s looking forward to taking office in January and working out any “negativity” between council members, the union and the city.

“We’re going to make everything work,” he said.

Safety services supported

Two renewal levies for the city police department and Cardinal Joint Fire District earned overwhelming support from voters Tuesday.

Voters approved renewal of a 3.9-mill, five-year levy for the city’s police department, with 74.4% of voters in favor (1,715 votes) and 25.6% of voters against it (589 votes).

The owner of a property valued at $100,000 would continue paying $136.50 per year; $682.50 over five years.

Police Chief Chuck Colucci told voters in September the levy revenues fund five full-time police officers in the city. It’s also been used to replace police cruisers, stun guns and radios and to purchase body and dash cameras, he said.

Voters also opted to renew a 0.42-mill, five-year levy for the general operating expenses of Cardinal Joint Fire District, with 80.9 percent of voters in favor of the levy (2,937 votes) and 19.1 percent against it (694 votes).

The owner of a property valued at $100,000 will continue paying $12.09 per year, or $60.45 over five years, officials said.

Fire Chief Don Hutchison in September told voters the levy generates $228,866 a year for the district. That money puts gas in the fire engines, puts tires on ambulances, covers insurance premiums and replenishes medical supplies — or even just paper towels — in the fire station.

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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