October 1, 2014

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Mayor shares plans for city by the lake

John Romoser swiveled his chair around to stare out the full-length windows behind him. It’s a beautiful view from his seventh floor office inside City Hall. Romoser’s new office overlooks the entire Lorain harbor, the red-topped lighthouse and a great lake that seems to stretch forever.

The lake is especially calm on this rainy day — too calm for Lorain’s 42nd mayor.“I just don’t understand,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re sitting on a fortune. Why isn’t this area being used?”

CHUCK HUMEL/CHRONICLE
New Lorain Mayor John Romoser stands by a mural of Lorain Harbor and Lighthouse in the lobby of City Hall.

It’s been a month since Romoser took office. Former Mayor Craig Foltin stepped down Aug. 2 to take a top financial position with Cuyahoga Community College, and after weeks of confusion and indecision by Lorain’s county and city Republican party, Romoser finally was voted into office by the city’s precinct committee Aug. 30.

Since then, his days have been filled with meet-and-greets with city departments, consulting firms and elected officials from around the county in an attempt to get acquainted with his new post.

But with a November election a little more than a month away against Democratic candidate Tony Krasienko, an at-large councilman who is the favorite to win the mayoral seat, and independent candidate Paula Tobias, Romoser said he wants to move quickly to show residents what he can do for them as mayor for the next four years.

“As time goes on, I really want this job for another four years,” the 66-year-old part-time Realtor said. “And it has nothing to do with keeping employed, because I was semi-retired already. I really want to do things for this city. We have to bring jobs here.”

That’s where the port comes in, or so Romoser hopes. He wants Lorain to become a viable port city again, where freighters come in to pick up goods made by companies that move here to tap into international markets. It has been decades since the port has seen such ship traffic.

To make good on his plan, Romoser intends to set up a committee with representatives from cities across the county to see how they would benefit from turning Lorain into a port city. He already has a meeting scheduled for next week with Rick Novak, executive director of the Port Authority, to discuss how that organization can be used to further his idea.

“We’re nine and a half days to Rotterdam,” he said, of the western European city. “It bothers me that nothing has been done about overseas trade.”

It’s an idea that isn’t so farfetched either. Don Romancak, chief planner for the city, said ocean trade is booming right now, but the problem is that ships from Europe and Asia are too big to pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which extends from Montreal to Lake Erie.

“But we’re keeping an eye on it,” Romancak said. “In the long term, international cargo has real possibilities here and we are looking at our ability to take advantage of that.”

Romoser sees his port idea as a way to get Lorain back on track, by creating jobs that will lift up the city’s economy. As mayor, his job is to create policy that Council hopefully approves, and he doesn’t want to waste these last few weeks before voters have a chance to decide whether he gets to keep his job.

The port plan would be the first initiative Romoser has pushed since he’s been mayor. So far, he has not introduced any legislation during his two Council meetings or two Council committee meetings. He also hasn’t butted heads with any Council members, which is something the previous mayor used to do often.

Romoser said he has the experience to lead the city. A Lorain native, Romoser spent eight years as a councilman and mayor in Sheffield during the 1970s and has since been manager for several corporations in the county. He was tapped by Lorain Area Republican Party Chairman David Arredondo to run this November, after Foltin announced he would not be seeking a third term.

“When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I met then-Mayor John Jaworski at Lakeview Park and he looked so professional in his all-black suit,” Romoser said. “I never thought I would be in those shoes, and here I am now. I really think I can do something for this city.”

Even if he is defeated in November, Romoser plans on staying in politics and getting his port plan pushed through. He may take a run at Council next or try again for the mayor’s seat in four years.

“I will continue just the same with the objectives,” he said. “I’m not going to slack.”

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.