Willowick Mayor Michael Vanni hopes to continue the city's momentum

Dec. 31—EDITOR'S NOTE — This is one in a series looking at what Northeast Ohio communities and agencies experienced in 2022 and what is facing them in 2023.

In the new year, Willowick plans to increase new businesses moving into the city, says Mayor Michael Vanni.

Toward the end of 2021, Willowick gained a Chipotle into its Shoregate Shopping Center in a new strip mall area in front while in that same strip mall, Starbucks and Be Smoothie Cafe opened this year.

The city also had two new restaurants, Bar Forno and Pasha Turkish Kitchen, open and another new restaurant is expected next year.

"We really need to be as business friendly as possible to get these businesses coming into the community," Vanni said. "Our residents are supporting them, which is great to see."

The city becoming more business friendly started with Richard Regovich, the former mayor who at the end of the year resigned after being elected a Lake County commissioner.

"We used to have conversations about trying to grow businesses and use our lakefront, which is our biggest asset," Vanni said. "We're situated not that far from Cleveland, the lake, the parks, Shoregate — it's a combination of all those things.

"Rich has done a tremendous job networking. I'm going to try to continue that momentum that we've got going."

Meanwhile, this year was the city's 59th swim show at Manry Park, a community event that drew 600 people, Vanni said.

"It speaks volumes on how the residents in the city are connected and support everything," he said. "Our rec department is second to none. We do free concerts at the Lakefront Lodge, we have a movie night at Dudley and we have a car show.

Aside from the day-to-day challenges that come with ensuring the city is run properly and that residents are taken care of, nothing stood out to Vanni that was extremely difficult to overcome this year.

"We have great partners out here," he said. "It's impressive how all the mayors work together because I think when one city does good, we all do good. We're always looking to improve. If something does come up, we always work together to get the job done."

Financially, Willowick is in a better place than where it was in 2021. The city has seen some major revenue increases in real estate taxes and also receives money from renting industrial property.

"We got a vehicle lease program with Enterprise where we were able to lease some trucks and sell them back to them after a year," Vanni said. "We were able to make a profit on that this year because of all the supply chain issues.

"Revenue is up, but you always have to be cognizant of making sure the money is getting spent right and making sure that budget is balanced every year."

The city hopes to continue to make improvements with its sewers and roads.

"We've got a couple projects that are on schedule next year," Vanni said. "We're always constantly taking care of our sewers and our roads, so improving the infrastructure is a high priority."