Incumbents face write-in for Niles council at-Large spots

NILES — Incumbents Michael Lastic, Ryan McNaughton and Barry Profato will face George Kuriatnyk, running as a write-in candidate, for three Niles council-at-large seats in next month’s election.

In April, Kuriatnyk, 57, dropped out of the Democratic Niles mayoral primary in a move he said was meant to support then-candidate Jimmy DePas-quale, who lost to incumbent Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz.

Kuriatnyk said in a recent interview that he regretted the decision. He also sought the mayoral appointment when former mayor Thomas Scarnecchia retired.

Kuriatnyk is running under the slogan of “Make Niles Great Again” and said his goal is to “clean up” the city, focusing on the 3rd and 4th Wards. He pointed to overgrown sidewalks in areas near Robbins Avenue.

“You can have all the money in the bank you want, but if you have a dirty, nasty city like we do, people aren’t coming here. Businesses won’t come here, people won’t come here, because of how the city is run and the people in charge,” said Kuriatnyk.

Kuriatnyk and the current administration have had a contentious relationship — Kuriatnyk has been escorted from council chambers on several occasions for talking over the time limit for public comment, and he recently accused the administration of misusing a grant for Waddell Park. Kuriatnyk said if elected he would be willing to “put issues aside” and work with Mientkiewicz, if Mientkiewicz would do the same.

Kuriatnyk said as a council member he would also require city departments to justify their spending before voting yes on appropriations.

Lastic, 76, said his main goals are continued fiscal responsibility and improvement of storm and sewer drains, some of which he said are 90 years old.

Lastic served as 2nd Ward councilman from 1999 to 2002, and has been on council-at-large since 2003. He has a bachelor of science degree from Kent State University and a master of science in administration from Westminster College.

Lastic said he supports the city remaining part of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber. He said the city should take advantage of chamber resources, as well as resources provided by the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s office. He said businesses are more inclined to work with those larger entities, and through partnerships, those businesses can be funneled into Niles.

“I’m open minded,” said Lastic. “You’ve got to be at my age; you’ve been around this long, you find it’s not always right, not always wrong. There’s a middle ground. Let’s take advantage of that.”

McNaughton, 45, is a self-proclaimed “infrastructure” hawk.

“I have long claimed that infrastructure will be the 21st century calamity for most cities across the county,” McNaughton said. He said while on council he helped “lead the charge” to resume a street resurfacing project that will total nearly 30 streets over two years by the end of 2019.

McNaughton has served two terms of council-at-large since January 2016.

He has worked as the executive director of the Fairhaven Foundation since April, a position which Niles Law Director Phil Zuzulo earlier this year said does not create a conflict of interest. Prior to that, McNaughton was the associate director of advancement at Kent State University for four years.

McNaughton has master’s degrees from Kent Sate University and Westminster College. He said higher education has taught him critical thinking and analytic skills that help him make informed decisions on council.

McNaughton said his goals include continued fiscal responsibility and strengthening the city’s safety forces — he said by the end of 2019, 25 out of 30 police vehicles will be five years old or less and council will have set aside nearly a quarter of a million dollars toward purchase of a new fire engine.

Profato, 73, said his main goal during his first term that began in January 2018 was getting the city out of fiscal emergency. Now that the city is clear of emergency, he said the most important issue is economic development.

“We as politicians can’t create jobs, but we can talk to entities that do. We just have to go after them, that’s all,” Profato said.

Profato has worked as a director of marketing for several companies and believes his background in business will be an asset in bringing new companies to the area. During his past term as councilman-at-large, he chaired the committee on economic development.

He said to bring in business, the city should always look at the possibility of annexation.

Profato was among those who submitted their names for mayor when Scarnecchia retired. He also ran as a write-in candidate against Scarnecchia in 2015.