With all the new businesses moving and coming into the city, many people tend to forget who and what comes into play in those decisions. Mayor John Pribonic came to the high school to answer some questions students had about the restructuring of our city.
Before he was Mayor, Pribonic was in a management position as a store director of ACME for over 40 years. After a friend of his in the chamber convinced him to run for the school board, he served there for six years. He then was encouraged to run for Ward 3 City Council, and served four years there and then 11 years at City Council-at-Large.
He has now been serving as Mayor for four years, and plans on running again this year. After his next term, he intends on doing a ‘partial retirement’ in which he can pursue things he wants to do, like being with his kids and grandchildren more.
When asked about the current state of the city, Pribonic states, “We are the third largest city in the county, and that gives us a lot of unique opportunities. With 35,000 people, we are fully grown, and that is where we can cap out.”
He spoke on the increase in housing developments and infrastructure, stating that the developments have been great considering that anything past Kent Road used to be a dirt road.
Pribonic stated, “I am sure if many of you spoke to your mom and dad or grandparents, they would tell you that Stow looks completely different than it did 40-45 years ago.”
Stow used to be a farmland city, but since the ‘60s, there has been a housing boom, and the city has adapted to that change. For example, Call’s Farm, which is now a neighborhood, used to be a working farm; unfortunately, the previous owners of the land recently passed away; nonetheless, Pribonic spoke of them highly, stating they were legacies in the city.
Additionally, many landmarks in the city look completely different as well.
Pribonic shared information about an old bike shop that has been changed entirely: “Eddy’s Bike Shop doesn’t look like how it did then. Eddy’s Bike Shop used to sell everything from bait to candy, to deli meat.”
The changes around Stow continue to be made as more restaurants and small businesses come in. The city is becoming more modernized, and Pribonic is adapting to the change. He made three very important observations about the city and what he is doing to enhance the projection of the city.
First, Pribonic spoke about the lack of variety in new businesses coming in, and how there was an uncanny amount of car washes specifically coming in.
“If we want something more, we have to figure out how we are going to do that. If an area or piece of land complies to what can be built there, for example a car wash, then we have to let them be built there,” he said.
He explains how many of the people who are coming in have the money to fund the project, so the lack of diversity in businesses cannot be changed.
Secondly, Pribonic then spoke about the average age of Stow’s residents.
“The average age of our citizens is 41.5. That is very good because it’s right in the middle of somebody’s lifespan. We are very young compared to a lot of our surrounding communities, but with that being said, from a marketing standpoint, that is the perfect age,” Pribonic stated. I believe we have to keep that age steady, and how we do that is reinvesting in our parks. Additionally on the ballot in Nov. there is going to be a levy to build a rec community center, for our city.”
Third, for the senior generation of the community, Pribonic also has plans to expand their community centers.
“The current senior center can only fit 47 people. The demographic for a senior citizen (which I contend to argue) is 55 and older. Stow holds about 8500 people in that category, so currently we could only service 47 out of 8500 people at one time. We have to look at community and rec centers as supplying someone starting at birth, all the way up to over one-hundred-years-old.”
After years of delays and interruptions, Pribonic stated his plan to rebuild Skip Playground in an effort to boost city morale: “It starts Apr. 15, and we will have a ribbon cutting on July 2.”
Tying back into the essential point he made about increasing the variety of businesses in our community, Pribonic said, “Community centers, parks, rec centers, etc. are important because if we want other businesses, and we want different businesses, we need more people coming in.”
He highlights the importance of surrounding communities such as Fairlawn. The population of Fairlawn is significantly smaller than Stow at 17,000 people, but during the day it swells to almost three times that amount because of the amount of small restaurants and attractions of the city. Pribonic hopes that in the future, Stow can see over 50,000 more people coming into or being in the city each day.
For example, the Target plaza is full. That plaza holds Target, Home Goods, Ulta, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, etc. The area is a huge shopping center for surrounding cities as well as the citizens of Stow, which is where Pribonic believes is going to bring in small businesses and restaurants.
Around that same area, the old Macy’s building that has been abandoned for years, Pribonic stated there are talks of businesses moving into the area. Because he believes that having empty storefronts is detrimental to the growth of the city, he has fully backed this project.
Pribonic also believes in the power of the residents for making differences in the community. Listening to the residents is the most important thing because if he doesn’t they may leave. He thinks residents are either going to say something and see change, or they are going to move, so it is important to get ahead of public concerns before the city sees real consequences for it.
Pribonic believes the future of Stow is bright, and he discussed how he keeps an eye on possible problems that may arise.
Pribonic said, “I really do not have any concerns, but I think you always have to keep your finger on the pulse.”
Because of the combined effort of the city’s representatives and the collective voice of the citizens, it is very easy to see change in the city.
“If there are concerns, we are able to react very quickly,” Pribonic stated.
Residents and leaders of Stow have made it very clear that the future of the city is bright and residents should be looking forward to the positive change the city will see.
Because Stow is such a diverse city, with communities ranging from trailer parks to over million dollar homes, it is Pribonic’s job to listen to all of the concerns throughout the city.
Pribonic stated, “The biggest thing a resident can do is go out and vote. That is how you see your city go where you want it to go.”