Eric C. Ungaro appeared enthusiastic and ready for business during his first meeting as a Poland Township trustee on Jan. 3 after being sworn in on Dec. 27 of last year.
Following defeats in his first two bids for office, for Youngstown City Council in 1999 and Mahoning County commissioner in 2007, he won a seat from former Trustee Annette DiVito last November.
Ungaro said that those failed attempts at office were character-building experiences.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Eric C. Ungaro smiles after being sworn in on Dec. 27, 2001 as new Poland Township trustee. Share the moment is his family, including, from left, daughters Gina and Carly, and wife Nanette.
"I was willing to lose, as long as it was the right way," which he defined as free from big donations with strings attached and control by local party machinery.
It's a quality that Ungaro proudly linked to the influence of his father, former Youngstown Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro, who currently serves as administrator for Liberty Township in Trumbull County. He said that watching his father keep his independence from a frequently corrupt party system in Youngstown was very inspiring to him growing up. He also called it "the hardest thing to overcome" in his runs for elected office.
Still, Ungaro feels that he has earned his seat on the board of trustees, which he says is very important to him. He said that getting elected with a small budget and a small staff of family and volunteers gives him the independence to do what he feels is right rather than being beholden to deep pockets or special agendas.
"I'm just at the beck and call of the people, that's who voted me in," he said.
Ungaro plans to keep in touch with those people as regularly as possible. In what he called "bringing government to the people," he said that he wants to hold regular neighborhood meetings with residents, along with police and fire chiefs, and other local officials, from within Poland Township and the surrounding communities.
"If five people come, so what? Maybe 100 will show up," he said, emphasizing that the point is making government accessible to residents.
When asked about what he sees in Poland's future, Ungaro said he recognizes the challenges facing the township, particularly with recent cuts in state funding and elimination of the estate tax in 2013, which has been a great source of revenue.
"It will be a matter of giving people good services with the finances you have," he said. He suggested greater cooperation between the township and the school board, such as supporting each other when levies come up for election.
Ungaro is very upbeat about time on the board so far. Reflecting on his background as a coach, he said that communication is the key.
"You can't have a bad team if you speak to each other open and honestly," he said. "Eventually you come to a decision that's best for the team."