Cleary, Elam face off in Ironton race

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 2, 2003

Just as the old clich goes, the race to become Ironton's mayor may come down to whether the public sees the city as a glass that is half empty or one that is half full.

Incumbent Bob Cleary has said that great things are in the works and that the "glass" is half full with the faucet ready to open up.

Challenger John Elam sees it differently and says that the glass is half empty and will be completely dry if there is not a leadership change soon.

Email newsletter signup

Cleary, 53, has been a business owner for 27 years and served on the

Ironton City Council from 1989-1997. He has been mayor since 1997. Because he fulfilled two years of a former mayor's term, Cleary is eligible to serve a full four-year term.

Overall, Cleary said his experience allows him to understand what it takes to move the city forward.

"I look at any criticism as that I am just not getting the message out," he said. "Are you looking back or are you looking forward? I don't think you can get anywhere by looking back."

Cleary has a nine-year plan that outlines completed projects, projects in the works and things that are still on the horizon.

He outlined some of the positives during his administration including creating the South Ironton Industrial Park, hiring an economic development director, building a new fire station, replacing the water tank on Nixon Hill, renovating the floodwall gate, paving streets, bringing $4.6 million in grants to the city and building a relationship with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital that will add $2.7 million in payroll to the city's tax base.

Many of these projects are still ongoing.

The industrial park is what Cleary said he considers one of his greatest achievements and said he will use his contacts to attract tenants just as he did to keep the Ohio Department of Transportation's garages in the city.

While his detractors point out that many businesses have left, Cleary insists that many left because the businesses actually closed not moved somewhere else.

Many new businesses have come in to help fill this void - such as Liebert replacing Cabletron.

"My whole life I have always felt like a catastrophe breeds opportunity," he said. "If you stay focused on the catastrophe you will miss the opportunity."

Cleary emphasized that he has no plans to raise taxes, despite claims to the contrary.

"I will not ask anybody for more taxes," he said. "We will do things like we have done them for the past six years."

John Elam, 45,

is a grant manager for the Southern Ohio Medical Center

He has served on the Ironton City Council from 2001 to the present.

"I think people need to realize they are voting on the future of Ironton. I will provide the leadership skills and servitude to promote Ironton's future to the best of my ability," Elam said. "I will make a difference and that is my guarantee."

Elam said he decided to run for mayor because he realized that council does not have enough ability to change the city. After his time on council he said he was frustrated because of the lack of communication with the mayor and an inability to do more than appropriate funds and legislate.

"I have a relentless drive for this. I have always worked on a whatever-it- takes mentality," he said. "If somedays you have to work 20 hours, then you work 20 hours. I want to see the city bounce back."

His opponents have pointed out that he is not a lifelong resident, but Elam said Ironton is his home and will always be his family's home.

Elam said he wants to halt the downward spiral that the city has been in.

From 1990 to 2000, 12 percent of the population has left and nearly a third of the population is considered low-to moderate income. Regardless of the reasons, 1,500 good jobs are no longer in the city, he said.

"It seems over the last two years, I couldn't see where we were making steps in a positive direction," he said. "Anyone that knows me, knows family

is extremely important to me. If I don't do something now, I am not a good father, not civicly minded and not politically minded."

If elected, Elam said he will work on job development to bring in more revenue and work closely with the departments to cut spending so that the city will finally spend less than it brings in each year.


Elam said that he is confident that the community knows it is time for new leadership

"I will be a full-time mayor year round. Not just three weeks before the election," Elam said. "Don't expect to see my picture in the paper but expect to see what I have done."