Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
Anthony Traficanti is a Mahoning County Commissioner and one of the most popular political figures in the Mahoning Valley. He agreed to sit down with Youngstown Eats for a broad based discussion of local life, local food, and to share some of his Thanksgiving traditions.
Mark: Commissioner, thank you for doing the inaugural edition of Youngstown Eats. It's going to be a lot of fun and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us a little bit today. I'm wondering if you could start out telling us a little bit about your background. A lot of us know you, but we know very little about you.
Anthony: Well, I was born and raised in Poland, Ohio. Graduated from Poland Seminary High School, grew up in a very humble beginnings. My mother was always home with me. My father worked hard and built a business. I played sports. I was a football player for Poland…played baseball…and music! I started out playing piano when I was younger and then I moved to playing guitar, which I still play today. I always worked at my family business. My dad was in the trucking business and real estate business for a long time. I started out there as a young kid 12 years old changing truck tires. You know you learn from the ground up. Get your hands dirty. He made me do it till he told me “now it's time for you to go to college! You want to get your hands dirty or do you want to go to college?” So after high school went to Youngstown State for my Bachelor’s Degree.
Mark: We have a little bit of a history there don't we?
Anthony: Yes we do. Weren't you my teacher?
Mark: I was your teacher! Business Law!!!
Anthony: You were my teacher you were very nice to me I'll never forget that.
Anthony: And then I went on to my graduate work. I got a Masters Degree in Community Counseling. I am licensed social worker and Licensed Professional Counselor. I don't practice anymore because I got involved in politics! Politics was always close to our family, and of course my dad knew Jim Traficant many many years ago when he ran for Sheriff. I got involved in his campaign by putting signs up. I became a precinct person.
Mark: Grass roots stuff.
Anthony: Yes grass roots and won my precinct race and then got hired in Traficant’s congressional office as a volunteer; then I was hired part-time; then I was brought on fulltime. I got to work about nine out of my eleven years for the United States Congress. I worked on Capitol Hill with Congressman Jim Traficant and that was the best eye opener I ever had in my life. That was basically my introduction into politics…at a very high level of government. To me that office is very crucial to helping people in the community. I worked it. I understand it. Then as things changed…Jim ended up getting in trouble. Many people recruited me because they wanted me to run for public office. They liked how I treated them. I was District Director for many years. I oversaw three counties: Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana helping everybody with problems from A through Z. It didn't matter whether it was a state problem, local problem federal problem, if you came to our Congressional Office you got service. I also taught at YSU for ten years part-time in the sociology and criminal justice department. I enjoyed that immensely. I haven't taught in ten years I'd like to go back. That’s what my background is. My mom was a stay at home mom she took care of me and my sister, she took care of our house and my dad took care of the business. I was very fortunate.
Anthony: Yes my parents are still living as is my sister…and I’m still alive!!!
Mark: That's great!
Anthony: Imagine that after twelve years in the commissioner’s office I'm still standing and still talking to you!
Mark: I am going to ask you one political question. Now you've heard me say this before... That commercial you did at Christmas a couple of years ago where you played Jingle Bells on the ukulele is the single best political commercial I have seen. Why did you make that commercial?
Anthony: Honest to goodness. You know it was political but it wasn't political. It was during the holidays, and I was figuring what a way to say Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everybody from me as Anthony even though it was a political commercial. I always wanted to play my guitar. That would start my commercial and then I would wish everyone Happy Holidays. My very good friend Rocky Chirchiglia was in that commercial but he has since passed on.
Mark: You have to bring it back Anthony.
Anthony: Maybe I will!! I'm glad that you said that because if you remembered it I know a lot of people remembered it. Thank you for that!
Mark: You've stayed here in the Mahoning Valley, talk to me a little bit about the Mahoning Valley. What do you think are its strengths? I think it has a lot going for it.
Anthony: It does. It has been my home, my whole life. Never left here. I was fortunate to grow up with a hard working Dad and a mother who cared for me giving me a good life. I was able to stay here and earn a living. I've been fortunate in that aspect. I don't see myself wanting to leave the area. The Mahoning Valley has come back in the last ten years by leaps and bounds. I'm not just talking about government projects. You could look at the Covelli Center, the two courthouses, two federal buildings in a city with a population of less than 60,000. The downtown reinvestment alone is amazing. Federal money was brought in. We did a lot of projects here. Now you see people like a Dominic Marciano buying historical buildings and renovating them. He's putting in millions of dollars of his own money into the downtown area. Look at V&M Star - Vallourec. That was a billion dollars investment between Youngstown and Girard. I never thought we would see steel come back here. We had the remnants of the steel industry, you had some spin offs, but there was no steel industry here at all. Now we are making pipe. I call it a steel plant because it is making pipe to service industry.
Mark: How's the population doing? I remember when you could shoot a canon up and down the street and not hit anybody. In the Poland, Boardman, Canfield area it's bumper to bumper.
Anthony: I never thought in a million years! I live in Poland. If it's between the hours of 3:30 and 5 you will not see me on 224. It's like New York City. I don't know where all these cars are coming from. The census said 2 years ago that we have lost population at a rate of 1% a year for ten years. It crosses various segments of our community. Youngstown has lost a lot of people. That could be attributed to a lot of things which I don't want to get into. Leave that up to the sociologists to figure out. But we have seen growth in the other segments of the community. Downtown businesses thriving; people are coming here and they like the downtown. They want to move here. Dominic Marciano, building all those apartments. And YSU, the best institution in the world, I love YSU. We're lucky we have it! We have great hospital systems here. We have golf courses and many other attractions.
By: Mark G. Mangie