STEUBENVILLE - Sixteen years after he was elected to represent the city's West End, 6th Ward City Councilman David "Pokey" Lalich said he will step down when his current term ends.
Lalich said he wanted to make his decision public, "so anyone interested in running for the seat will know it is an open race."
"Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Chuck Noll said when you think about retiring, then you should. I am following his advice. Sixteen years as a ward councilman is a long time," added Lalich.
END OF AN ERA — Steubenville 6th Ward Councilman David “Pokey” Lalich will not seek re-election to a fifth straight term. Lalich said it is time for someone else to represent the 6th Ward in the city’s West End. - Dave Gossett
"I would still like to do something in the community. Maybe give time to an organization. Maybe do some volunteer work. But I need to do something to stay crisp," said Lalich, who will turn 68 years old on Feb. 14.
Lalich was elected to the ward seat in 1997, defeating former 6th Ward Councilwoman Viola Nash.
"I was with a group taking a tour of the statehouse in Columbus. The tour guide pointed to a map of Ohio and said there were 87 counties in Ohio and then there is Jefferson County. I had never heard that term before, so when I came home I asked other people what that meant. I have lived in Steubenville my entire life and I know this is a good community with a lot of good people here. If you need help someone will help you. People will chip in to help their friends and neighbors. That's why I wanted to run for city council," said Lalich.
"When I was first elected I was nervous at first. I really didn't know what I was getting into," Lalich admitted.
It would take Lalich 18 months to become comfortable in his role as a councilman.
"I learned so much from people during my time on the council. I learned a lot about government, people and business. And I am still learning. I can never learn enough. I sought out good, smart people for advice. A lot of people mentored me because I respected their opinions. I still talk to them to hear their ideas," remarked Lalich.
Lalich spent 35 years at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and 32 years with a home improvement company before seeking public office.
"The one thing I am most proud of during the past 16 years is my wife (Darla) putting up with me for all these years. She always said I get grumpy when we have tough issues in the city. I guess the one project I took personal pride in was helping to save the Market Street bridge. Former Follansbee Mayor Tony Paesano and I met with former state Senator Ed Bowman to talk about how we could save that bridge. We put together a group of people to work on the project and Paesano and Bowman talked to the governor in Charleston. I went to Fred Brower at Trinity Health System to find out how many people traveled that bridge every year to go to the hospital in Steubenville and together we were successful in having the bridge maintained and still open," related Lalich.
"I am also proud of my efforts to obtain state money for the Johnson Road project. I went to Columbus and talked to a number of people and we received $200,000 for the work," he added.
Another project Lalich has watched for years is the proposed expansion of Lovers Lane.
"The city doesn't have the money for that project. If we are successful in obtaining federal dollars we can move forward. But if the project calls for the purchase of private property, we can't afford that. I hope it happens but it will be an expensive project," Lalich commented.
He also noted he reached out to the oil industry trying to attract interest in the former city landfill near the Jefferson County Airpark.
"We have an ordinance in place prohibiting drilling in the city limits but we were successful in getting an oil company to agree to a lease for potential drilling at the old landfill that netted the city money," he said.
Lalich said the one major regret he has is a failure to see the downtown business district revitalized.
"When I first came on council I approached the city manager at the time and asked him to borrow $15 million to take down old dilapidated buildings in the downtown and to start over with a new green space and attractive buildings. We are often portrayed as a boarded up downtown. Visitors paint a bleak picture of our city. I wish we had started revitalizing our downtown 16 years ago. It would have looked a lot different today," stated Lalich.
Lalich has always been a leader from his days as class president at Catholic Central High School and playing quarterback for the Crusader football team.
"I always tell people I made my friend Danny Abramowicz the success he was in college and the National Football League. I threw the football over his head and behind him and he usually caught it," Lalich laughed.
"I want to recognize the city department heads and employees. I didn't realize until I got on the council the tough jobs our city workers face on a regular basis. They work very hard and may not always be appreciated. But they do a great job," remarked Lalich.
"It will be hard to walk away from City Council after 16 years. I love this city and the people who live here. Yes, I may stop down every so often to watch the council in action. I don't know who the next 6th Ward council member will be, but my best advice would be to not take comments personally. Always be honest with your constituents, and work hard for the city. I have always tried to return phone calls. That is important," Lalich said.