Mayoral candidates share their focus for the future of Youngstown

Youngstown mayoral candidates share their focus for the future of the city, including coronavirus relief, developing businesses and keeping young people in the city.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown mayoral race is underway as four candidates filed by the Feb. 4 deadline. 

Incumbent Mayor Jamael Tito Brown will face two Democratic Party primary challengers May 4: Julius Oliver and Ryan Kelly. Tracey Winbush is the only Republican candidate who filed. 

Jamael Tito Brown, Democrat (incumbent)

Jamael Tito Brown, a lifelong Youngstown resident, became the city’s 51st mayor in January 2018.

Brown said the city changed a lot in the last four years on both the federal and state level. Youngstown’s reputation issues with corruption and bad politicians have excluded the city from that in past years. 

“We have come so far, but there is so much more work to do,” Brown said. 

Brown said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed stark health inequalities, especially in the minority community. Brown and his team have been focused on getting testing and vaccinations made more available.

With help from Gov. Mike DeWine’s Minority Health Task Force, Brown said he wants to have a healthier community coming out of the pandemic. 

He also wants to ensure workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have access to training opportunities for workforce development and skills. Brown said small businesses and business owners who lost their business because of the pandemic need to be able to recover.

In his second term, Brown would focus on creating renewable energy jobs in the Mahoning Valley. With partners in the city and region, he wants to ensure the city boasts a workforce ready to be part of “Voltage Valley,” which includes electric car manufacturer Lordstown Motors and the new General Motors battery plant in Lordstown, Ultium Cells LLC. 

“It’s all about recovery, but we want to make sure that we’re healthy as we get to that point,” Brown said. 

Brown said he would also like to see more quality, affordable housing available in the city. Housing has been part of weekly discussions with DeWine and mayors across Ohio. 

The Youngstown Police Department needs to be on the front end of 21st-century policing by bolstering community policing with a focus on social and mental health, Brown said. 

Community policing will get officers to go out in neighborhoods not just when there is a crime, Brown said. The police department will be able to know the community and the people they are serving. 

Julius Oliver, Democrat

Julius Oliver was elected 1st Ward councilman in 2016. He is a lifelong resident of Youngstown and also owns Kingly Hand Wash and Wax, a car wash on Front Street that he started in 2008.

Oliver said he is not interested in just winning an election — he is interested in changing and refocusing the priorities of the city.

“The people of Youngstown is really what I want to focus on,” Oliver said.

In recent years, Oliver has been working to develop ways to push the community forward by investing in businesses and keeping young people in the community. He said this is especially important with the effects of the pandemic on the city. 

“When you keep young people here, they are going to change the environment,” Oliver said. 

Oliver said he wants to start a city-focused youth program that will provide young people with resources and funds. The program will create opportunities to help the city’s youth from elementary school through college.

He also wants to work with Farmer’s National Bank and other banks to give loans to citizens to renovate existing housing instead of using the loans to demolish housing.  

To reach these goals, he said the city needs a mayoral administration that is there for them. 

“It’s not about leadership being powerful. It’s about leadership powering you,” Oliver said. 

Ryan Kelly, Democrat

Ryan Kelly is a lifelong resident of Youngstown and opened a Belleria Pizza location in 2008 after graduating from Ursuline High School in 2008.

Over the years, he owned four Belleria Pizza locations and Kelly’s Bar and Grill on Mahoning Avenue. He eventually sold three of the pizza locations and the bar. 

He now owns Belleria Pizza in Columbiana and also serves on the board of health for the Youngstown City Health District. 

Kelly said he wants to make Youngstown a place where young people can grow up and stay when they are adults. Kelly said he is focused on jobs and economic development for the city.

“We’re focusing on Youngstown first,” Kelly said. 

He said Youngstown needs to use the resources it already has to grow. He wants to see what the city can do for businesses to help them grow each year and to keep them sustainable in the future. 

Kelly said he also wants to find ways to get the city’s young people more involved by expanding after-school programs or making more jobs available. 

He said Youngstown needs to give people the opportunities to stay in the city and want to raise their families. 

“There’s a lot of good, young people here that if we don’t start giving them opportunities, then they’re going to leave,” Kelly said. 

Tracey Winbush, Republican 

Tracey Winbush is the only Republican candidate in the election. She has lived in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley for the majority of her life and hosts the radio talk show “Tracey and Friends.” She served as a board member on the Mahoning County Board of Elections. 

On Friday, she resigned as a board member to officially kick off her campaign for mayor. 

“I don’t believe we are actually embracing the positives of Youngstown and capitalizing on them as we should,” Winbush said. 

Winbush is committed to making her campaign about Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. 

“It’s about you. It’s about us. It’s about living here,” Winbush said. 

Winbush said her focus is not on the recovery of Youngstown in the pandemic, but the recovery of Youngstown from Youngstown’s history. 

“We just need to seize the moment while everyone else has caught up with us and show them how to be a 21st-century city,” Winbush said. 

Winbush wants to focus on education, economic development and quality of life issues so people will want to move to and stay in Youngstown. 

“It’s going to have to be a lift that we all do together, not just the mayor’s office,” Winbush said. 

Winbush said Youngstown City School District was already struggling before the pandemic and moving to online classes. She said education has changed and the schools need to be rebuilt to include the changed model of education. 

She said more jobs need to be created using the people and resources that already exist in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. It includes partnering with Youngstown State University, America Makes, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and other businesses. 

“We have got to build the hope up that people can believe … in Youngstown again,” Winbush said. 

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