WARREN - Two women are fighting to be agents of change in the city's 6th Ward. For both, that means reducing crime and increasing opportunity.
Incumbent Cheryl Saffold has served on council since 2009. Erica Royster, a relative political newcomer, has served as the 6th Ward precinct committee representative since 2011. The candidates - both Democrats - face off in the May 7 primary election.
Saffold said she has always wanted to serve in the community where she grew up.
It is something that was taught to her by her father, Robert Saffold, who was the city's first black firefighter and served on the county's first human relations committee.
"My mission is to do everything I can to serve the people of the 6th Ward and the city in general," Saffold said.
Royster, who has lived in Warren for most of her life, said she wants to help the city to move in a different direction.
"In the last several years, we've seen major companies, like RG Steel and GE close or announce they will be closing," Royster said. "We are losing residents by leaps and bounds. Council has to find some creative ways to replace what we are losing."
A mother of three, Royster said she also wants to make a difference for the next generation.
"I want to help solve neighborhood problems," Royster said. "I've experienced having my home broken into and have seen crime increase."
If elected, Royster said she will work to better connect neighborhood groups with city departments, so they can directly contact them about crime, backed up drains and street repair issues.
Although a first-time council candidate, Royster said she is a part of various community organizing events.
"I've been involved and have led many neighborhood cleanups," she said. "You learn a lot about your community by being out there, working with other residents, listening to their concerns."
Saffold has worked with city police, other law enforcement officials and residents to find ways to fight crime in the city. At least one shooting occurred within several hundred yards of Saffold's home, so crime is very personal to her.
"I'm not the kind of person who can sit down and not do anything," Saffold said.
As one of her crime-fighting initiatives, she would like the city to consider installing surveillance cameras.
"I have spoken to someone who was instrumental in having surveillance cameras placed in Pittsburgh," Saffold said. "I would like him to come here to discuss the idea."
Royster's grandparents, Cleo and Mary Royster, have owned the South Central Tire and Auto, since 1994. As such, she believes small business development is crucial in changing the direction of the city.
"I believe that we have to look at avenues in which the city is more business friendly," Royster said. "We have to make Warren more attractive to businesses than any of our neighboring communities."
Working with officials at Kent State University's Trumbull campus, Saffold has co-sponsored job fairs to help people connect with employers.
As the chairwoman of the council's community development committee, Saffold has invited different groups, such as the Regional Chamber, the Trumbull County Landbank and the Ohio Oil & Gas Association to talk about bringing economic development to the city.
"I believe that community development and economic development are connected with one another," Saffold said. "There should be more efforts to highlight economic development programs in the city."