GIRARD - The longtime president of City Council is facing opposition when residents head to the polls Tuesday.
Incumbent Reynald J. Paolone has held the position for eight years. Former at-large councilman Mike Costarella will contest him for the second time in the Democratic primary elections. No Republican filed in that primary.
Paolone began his service to the community as a councilman at-large in 1993 before representing the 1st Ward in 1997, and finally becoming council president in 2005. He beat Costarella for council president in the 2011 primary.
"Having been in local politics for almost 20 years, I have an outstanding rapport with the people of the community of Girard," Paolone said. "Everyone and anyone who knows me knows how accessible I am and how much I am willing to go to bat for them, work with them to solve a problem or just simply sit down and talk with them about whatever they wish."
Paolone cites the importance of building relationships with the mayor, along with other council members as imperative to the job.
"You have to act as a liaison between the mayor and council," Paolone said. "First, I've established my relationship with Mayor (Jim) Melfi to form a very strong bond. I also have an excellent working relationship with all seven sitting councilmen. I speak with each of them on a regular basis, and they all know that they can contact me at any time to discuss anything they may have on their mind."
A graduate of Girard High School, Paolone earned a Bachelor of Science in education from Youngstown State University in 1978. He has taught for 34 years, first at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Niles, then from Girard High School since 1997.
His opponent, Costarella, said he wants to modernize the proceedings of city council and make documents more accessible.
"Currently, city council utilizes an antiquated paper-based system of record keeping," Costarella said. "Because of this and lax care of these ordinances and resolutions, more than one of them have been lost.
''In addition, it is a very arduous task for citizens, lawmakers and the media to access and search these documents as well as council meeting agendas and minutes."
Costarella said he supports an online codification for the city's ordinances, and said he has a plan to make meeting minutes, resolutions and agendas available on the city website.
"As council president, I will have the power to do these things for the city."
Costarella held at-large positions in Girard from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2008 to 2009.
"As councilman at-large, it was all about the issues," Costarella said. "With this position, it's about the proceedings."
A 1981 graduate of Girard High School, Costarella earned a bachelor's from Bowling Green State University in 1986 and a master's from Wright State University in 1992. In 2004, he started Costarella Innovations LLC, working as a product software architect.
"Council lacks a member that promotes research on issues," Costarella said. "I have a long record of studying the issues that face the city. In the past, I have studied the oil and natural gas industry, proposed a number of business justifications for fixing the Girard Lower Lake dam and recently worked with the city engineer to provide and estimate to the city and school system on building sidewalks leading to the new high school."
"As business owner of a computer consulting firm that has serviced many companies over the years, both large and small, I have acquired knowledge of business that will be crucial to develop more economic activity within the city and region," he said.