Ask the three candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the May 7 Youngstown mayoral primary what sets them apart from each other and you’re likely to hear many answers.
Jamael Tito Brown talks about his “hands-on experience,” Rev. Matthew Smith will tell you he “always tries to fight for the people who don’t have anything,” and John McNally will tout his job experience.
McNally, 43, has spent eight years as a Mahoning County Commissioner, and eight years before that, he worked in the Youngstown law department.
“I know the employees. I know their bargaining contracts. I know how city council works. I know the legislative process,” said McNally.
Smith, 55, has never held public office. He ran unsuccessfully for Youngstown City Council a number of years ago. He currently preaches at the Early Morning Church of Christ on the city’s East Side.
“I grew up here. This is my home. I grew up in Youngstown. I live here, you know?” said Smith. “I deal with people every day that talk to me and want things, you know, a little better in Youngstown. You know what I mean?”
Brown, 41, has served on Youngstown City Council since 2008 and has worked in the Mahoning County Treasurer’s Office for the past seven years.
“I know what it takes to sit at the table and work out deals like the V&M deal,” said Brown. “I know what it takes to shut down drug houses in the neighborhood. I know what it takes to talk about neighborhood improvements.”
Brown claims his experiences will help him continue the programs put in place by his predecessors such as Jay Williams’ Youngstown 2010 initiatives.
“Those things are coming now in front of us. It’s like well, I was part of that team that started talking about that, so I want to continue that forward progress,” said Brown.
Smith, who admits he’s had run-ins with the law and claimed at one point he was a college graduate when in fact he is not, said his goal in running is to inspire others.
“Look at me, I’m trying to do some good,” said Smith. “So, if I can’t do it, I want you to try to do it. That’s my message I try to give to people, okay?”
McNally, who was caught up initially in the criminal case surrounding the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, only to have all the charges dismissed, said his desire to serve outweighs the potential downside.
“I love public service. Not many people want to be involved in this business,” said McNally. “They don’t want to have their name in the paper all the time. They don’t want to be challenged all the time.”