Ever since I was a young teenager I have been interested in government and public service. Back in 2003, I saw Parma headed in the wrong direction. Our city government was plagued with problems in our public housing, police and other departments. I came to the conclusion that I could do as good of a job or better than those who were serving and decided to go for it. I was the underdog in the race, but I knocked on every door in the ward three, sometimes four, times and went from being someone few people knew to most people calling me by my first name before election day. I have continued that work ethic throughout my service to the residents of our fine city. I am happy to say that our team of elected officials has really turned our city around in the years I have served.
I won my first election as Ward 2 councilman in November, 2003. I won reelection in 2005, 2007 and 2009. I was appointed president of city council in January 2011 and won the election to retain the position in November of that year. Subsequently, I won reelection in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.
How did you come to Parma and what do you love about the city?
I was born and raised in the Sandusky area. When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton, I met and immediately fell in love with the love of my life, Deena Denk. I had never been to Parma before. When I visited her home and family on Pinegrove Avenue in 1990, her dad told me he was making pierogies for dinner. Inside I was secretly worried about what I was going to have to ingest, as I had never heard of them. Needless to say, it was “love at first bite!”
I moved to Parma after graduating and lived in State Hill Manor Apartments on State Road, while attending Cleveland State for post-graduate studies. Deena and I were married in 1994 and she moved in with me. In 1996, I obtained my teaching position and Deena was pregnant with our son Patrick and we bought our house on Hampstead Avenue where we have lived ever since.
I love so many things about Parma! First, and foremost, the people. You will never meet a community of more salt-of-the-earth, non-judgmental, caring folks. I love the cultural diversity and all that goes with it…food, food, food! I love that our taxes are low, we are close to everything, there is so much to do, great neighbors, low crime, great safety forces, fun parks, etc.
What’s your proudest moment as city council president?
My proudest moment as a member of city council was when Dean DePiero was mayor. That year he, my colleagues on Council and I had finally had it with flooding in our city. We decided to contract with the Cuyahoga County sanitary engineer for sewer maintenance services. This was something many cities in the county had done for years. Many were concerned about the push back we would receive from residents by voting on a raise in fees on homeowners without a ballot vote. We led a major education campaign and the residents agreed that it was the right things to do. I was proud of all of my colleagues for approving the legislation unanimously. I am happy to report that, as a result of this decision, much work has been done over the years to alleviate flooding issues. Although problems persist, mainly due to climate change, so does the work.
Like everyone, I am excited to get back to normal, post-COVID-19. I am looking forward to the Run-Walk for Pierogies, the St. Charles parade (which I plan) and carnival, other church carnivals and watching people take selfies with the script Parma sign. I would be remiss if I did not express my excitement for the next Parma Young Professionals’ event!
What do you like to do when you’re not working on council affairs?
I have served as a social studies teacher in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools for 25 years. I served 11 years at the Middle School and have been at the high school now for 14. I teach American government and law and serve as Dean of the social studies department.
I also have been an avid runner since 2008. In that time I have run a slew of 5ks, 10ks, half marathons and other distance races, as well as 89 full marathons. I completed my first Half Iron Man last spring. My goal is to run a full marathon in every U.S. state, Canadian province and continent.