Wickliffe Mayor Joe Sakacs wants to focus on economic development in 2023

Jan. 1—EDITOR'S NOTE — This is one in a series looking at what Lake County communities and agencies experienced in 2022 and what is facing them in 2023.

As he adjusted to his role as mayor of Wickliffe and his responsibilities, Joe Sakacs said 2022 was a learning curve at first.

Between his family, friends, other Lake County mayors, his administrators and his staff, Sakacs said he had a great support system that made the transition smooth.

"We are a smaller city surrounded by freeways, but we've got nothing but heart in the middle," he said.

Repaving Lakeland Boulevard and the Ohio Department of Transportation's freeway bridge along with the Worden Road project were among the things that took place in the city this year.

"We paved four streets this year, which was definitely a great accomplishment," Sakacs said. "We got a new fire truck and some new service equipment.

"Vehicles have been a challenge and equipment," he added. "We were supposed to get a couple trucks in March and then it was pushed back to October, and now pushed back to another eight months, so it's been a challenge."

Like other area communities, Wickliffe has also had issues hiring safety forces personnel, but with the city's chiefs actively recruiting throughout the year, the fire and police departments are fully staffed for the first time in over a decade, Sakacs said.

"Both pools opened up and the spray park, and that was big," he said about the city's parks and recreation. "Everybody was worried about Jindra and that opened, and we also got a (new) walking path there.

"That wasn't going to happen because we budgeted $90,000 because that's what we were estimated from 2021 and then the asphalt company came back with $290,000," he added. "A local company ended up doing it in concrete for half the price."

To highlight Wickliffe Village Cemetery, the Provo House was demolished, and the city plans to add to the landscaping there, as well as the aesthetics of Euclid Avenue going forward.

Since having a healthy financial carry over, Wickliffe is fiscally sound, Sakacs said.

"We've been able to plan and continue to address infrastructure projects we paid for in the past and we hope to do at least that many or more in 2023," he said. "We work with the council and my administrators to make sure we're fiscally responsible, but it's right around the same as last year."

Sakacs' priority next year is economic development and business retention.

"My goal is to talk to as many (businesses) as I can to let them know we are here for them," he said. "Developers are looking to transform some of the vacant commercial properties. There are four sections of town that are really going to be the difference makers and it goes from the east end to the west end."

In the fall of 2023, the middle and elementary school buildings will be demolished as the new K-12 Wickliffe Schools campus will be opening on Rockefeller Road where the current high school is.

"They're going to take down the high school because they have to have parking," Sakacs said. The middle and elementary school is the school' (district)'s property, but the city is going to work with the school so that the best fit goes there whether some retail up front or commercial up front and residential in the back."

The city also plans to do more summer concerts and complete some Coulby Park updates.

"People are already coming there for pictures, so we're going to make (Coulby Park) even nicer than it was," Sakacs said. "I know one of the fountains didn't work, so we're going to replace the fountain and update something that's long overdue.

"We have everybody coming to enjoy the park and a lot of other schools, and people from outside of the community come for weddings. I want to show that park off to its full potential."