Youngstown City Mayor John McNally paid a visit to Youngstown State University on Tuesday to speak with university scholars and honors students about political campaigns, leadership, expanding the relationship between the university and the city and revitalizing the ailing city.
“I have always had a love for the city and the area,” McNally said. “There are people throughout the city, and in the county as well, who want Youngstown to succeed. … You see people, and they believe things are turning around for Youngstown.”
The newly-elected mayor, who has been a resident of Youngstown for 15 years and attended Ursuline High School, was brought to Cafaro House by the University’s Scholar Trustees — an organization that plans events for the scholars and honors program.
Eric Shehadi, a YSU student trustee, spearheaded organizing the event.
“I thought it was great. It is not everyday you get the mayor down where you live, chitchat with him, have a real casual evening and ask him where his favorite pizza place is,” Shehadi said.
One of the principal points McNally emphasized was further partnership between the city and the university.
“I think the university setting is a fantastic jewel for the city,” McNally said. “Back in 1998-2000, Dr. Sweet was here and Mayor McKelvey was here; those two worked very closely. That is the type of relationship we need to have between the city and the university to survive. I think when Dr. Anderson was here and Mayor Sammarone was here, not much of a relationship evolved. There really wasn’t a whole lot of conversation about how the city and the university could work together to strengthen the neighborhoods up here, to work on the demolition projects up around the parks. … We will wait for the next president, and hopefully that will happen quickly, so the city and the university can continue to hook-up.”
Shehadi echoed McNally’s opinion, pointing toward instances of the two entities’ growing relationship.
“The city and the university have a strong relationship, but really our relationship is definitely a platform to build upon. In the past few years, we have seen a lot of different projects, especially on the south side of campus, like Hazel Street being open and the Williamson College of Business being built closer to downtown,” Shehadi said.
Mark Stanford, a music education major, attended the event and also hoped it beckoned an effort to work closer with the university.
“It was great to have the mayor come out and make that connection to campus because obviously Youngstown State is a big part of the community. It was great to hear some of his ideas and some of his experiences,” Stanford said. “Just coming out and talking to students, I think that is a great connection to have.”
Though McNally, throughout his time, spoke extensively on the positive growth downtown, the university, and the city as a whole, he also recognized the strenuous work that needed to be put into repairing parts of the city.
“We are not naive enough to believe that the good news that is happening there directly affects good things in our neighborhoods. We know we have a ton of work to do in our neighborhoods. But there are some different programs that are falling into place that I think will help us reduce, over time, a significant amount of blight we have to deal with in the city,” McNally said.