— First in a series of two personality stories on the candidates for mayor of the village of Loudonville.
LOUDONVILLE — Incumbent Mayor Steve Stricklen has a total of 28 years of elected service to the village of Loudonville.
He was first elected to village council in 1992, served two terms and then did not run for reelection.
After being absent from council for two years, he was appointed to fill a vacancy, and remained on council until October of 2015, when his predecessor, Stewart Zody, resigned as mayor. Stricklen already was running for the mayor's post that year, and was elected, unopposed.
Stricklen is running for reelection this fall but this time has opposition — council member Tom Young.
Asked why he wants to continue in office, Stricklen listed a number of reasons, prefacing the list with the comment "There are many more things left to do."
Stricklen is pleased with some of the major projects, totaling more than $4 million that have been completed during his tenure as mayor, and plans to continue working with village staff and council to improve village infrastructure and roadways.
Some of the larger accomplishments have been the replacement of Water Reservoir No. 1 on South Mount Vernon Avenue, and roadway and utility construction projects on South Mount Vernon Avenue, Wally Road, North Water Street and, most recently, Butler Street. In addition to continuing street improvements, he has some other goals in mind.
First, Stricklen said: "As part of my service on the Mohican Area Growth Foundation board I am constantly working with the Ashland Area Council on Economic Development to create jobs here. I am in a good position to get contacts, and am gaining an understanding of the process to make this happen."
Stricklen admitted "we’ve run into a snag in the economic development process, however, with the resignation of director Kathy Goon. She worked really hard to find jobs for the south part of the county, making her loss a real blow. We will work with whomever takes her place, and as individuals, members of the MAGF will keep the economic development ball rolling."
His vision for economic development in the village also includes the pursuit of grant funding for the renovation of the downtown business district with new sidewalks, greenery and lighting.
The village recently has become qualified for Community Development Block Grant funding for projects such as this.
Second, Stricklen also wants to continue making improvements to the Ohio Theatre. "We are talking with representatives from the State of Ohio about more grants to improve the theatre exterior, particularly the entrance on the south side," he said. "I would like to add fire escapes and entrances like those on the north side, so we have another handicapped accessible access to the upper level. We will also have to brick over the old windows on the south side to meet code. Village Administrator Curt Young, Theatre Manager Sally Hollenbach and I are working on grants for this work."
Third, Stricklen described work with the Ashland County Land Bank, another board he serves on, whose purpose is to take properties which are delinquent in taxes and either raze or improve the property so they can again become tax supporting.
"There are a few properties here that I felt were candidates for land bank acquisition, but in every case, someone bought them and has restored them," the mayor said. "I’m sure at some point the land bank will become involved in a Loudonville property."
Finally, Stricklen reiterated his pledge to work with the village administrator and fiscal officer on "the never-ending battle to get grant monies to resurface streets in the village. I also want to do something to encourage and incentivize the railroad to improve the condition of the railroad crossings on Spring and Market Streets."
Stricklen grew up in the area, attended local schools and was graduated from Loudonville High in 1971. He worked at Borg-Warner in Mansfield for four years before beginning a career at the Flxible Co. that lasted from 1974 to 1991, mostly as a supervisor.
He then went to work as a sales representative for Burgess Ambulance Sales, and last year was the top salesman of the year for the McCoy-Miller division of the REV group, which manufactures seven lines of ambulances. He covers southern Ohio for Burgess.
His wife, Stacy, is a Realtor for Wilson Family Realty, and Stricklen also has his real estate license.
He has three children, Dr. Valarie Stricklen Ruiz, a pediatrician in Perrysburg; Tanna Stricklen, who has earned a master’s degree in social work and works as a clinical therapist at Midwest Ohio Detox Center; and Parker Stricklen, who recently earned a degree in microbiology at Ohio State and is employed for a Columbus firm as a microbiologist. He has a grandson, Lucas, who is a sixth-grader.
Stricklen said he is pleased with all the village employees and with the village council, "which works very well together. Our village employees, in every department, care about the work they do and about the village. They work hard, and are very knowledgeable, providing for efficient day-to-day operations within the village."