STOW — Although John Pribonic won’t officially become the mayor of Stow until the Summit County Board of Elections certifies the results, he’s looking forward to taking over the position.
Pribonic ran unopposed in the general election this month for an unexpired term, earning 11,976 votes, according to the final unofficial vote count from the board of elections. An assistant at the board of elections said the results should be certified Nov. 27.
Pribonic, 57, then has 10 days to accept the position, with a term lasting through the end of next year. Stow voters will vote for mayor again next November.
"Even though I'm the only one that ran and won, those votes have to be certified,” said Pribonic, who said he expects to start the office’s duties around Dec. 3.
James Costello has served as Stow’s interim mayor since May after former Mayor Sara Kline, who was first elected in 2011, resigned in May to take a job as superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Department.
“It's been my honor and privilege to serve as interim mayor,” said Costello, who thanked the city's employees for their dedication and teamwork.
Pribonic said when Kline resigned, no one on the city council, including him, was prepared to take over the seat, other than Costello. But the married father of two has wanted to be mayor for several years, so he got himself ready to appear on the ballot this month.
"This has been a dream or plan of mine for a long time, and I look forward to working and serving the residents,” said Pribonic, who has worked for Acme for 42 years, most recently as store director. "It's been an excellent community to me, and I'm just looking forward to helping better it.”
Pribonic has served on city council for almost 11 years, currently as an at-large representative, and previously served on the Stow-Munroe Falls school board for six years. He grew up in Cuyahoga Falls and has lived in Stow for 28 years.
Goals as mayor
As mayor, Pribonic wants to focus on identifying and developing a downtown area in Stow to give the city a community gathering area, something it currently lacks. He said that's because the city grew quickly over the years, calling the growth “exponential.”
“If you would ask people ... where is downtown Stow, everybody has a different answer,” said Pribonic, who said the area could be a mix of retail and recreation. "I think we need to have that identity to where we can bring our community together."
Pribonic said neighborhoods and homeowners associations are very close-knit, but he wants the city to be able to come together in one central area.
"It is something that our city is yearning for,” he said. “We're very good as far as pieces of [the] puzzle, but we need to connect all those puzzle pieces."
Pribonic said he also hopes to focus on the city’s collaboration with neighboring cities, the school system, local businesses and civic organizations and improve electronic communication between the city and its residents.
Costello on council
Costello, the interim mayor, will return to Stow City Council, although he's not sure where he’ll go. Before he became acting mayor, he represented Ward 2 for 15 years. Doug Herchick, whom council appointed in May, has been the interim Ward 2 representative while Costello was mayor.
Costello, 70, said although he was elected to the Ward 2 seat, it makes the most sense to leave Herchick in the post, with Costello taking over the at-large seat Pribonic will vacate when he becomes mayor.
"The argument for, to replace John, is I've been serving as the mayor for six months. I've been serving the entire city,” he said of filling the at-large seat. “With Doug, he's been here for six months, serving the residents of Ward 2. He's just learning the process.”
If Costello returns to his Ward 2 seat, a majority of the council would have to vote to appoint someone to fill the at-large post, according to the city’s charter. If the council doesn't vote within 45 days of the position being vacated, the mayor would appoint someone to the position. The term is through the end of 2019.
Costello, a 40-year Stow resident who retired after 40 years in purchasing in the rubber and plastics industry and 30 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, said he hopes the question is answered by the next council meeting on Dec. 13.
"This is uncharted waters,” said Costello, who said the city law department and clerk of courts are researching the matter to determine what’s allowed under the city charter.
Costello said regardless of the seat he fills on city council, he plans to address the city’s payroll ordinance, which he said hasn’t been updated since 2008, calling it “outdated.”
“We have seen applications for advertised job openings drop by over 50 percent. We've found it increasingly difficult to acquire and keep qualified people,” he said. “We are having difficulty recruiting qualified individuals because we've been told our salary compensation is not competitive.”
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.