UNION CITY, Ohio — Union City’s mayor-elect is ready to hit the ground running with an enthusiasm he hopes will be contagious for others his age.
The 31-year-old Zach Pruitt has only been a member of the village council for two years, but when longtime mayor Scott Stahl announced that he would not run for reelection this year, Pruitt was ready to step up to the plate. He was the only candidate on the ballot and officially becomes mayor of Union City, Ohio, on Jan. 1.
Pruitt has lived his whole life in the Union Cities, except for his time spent serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“Growing up in this town, you see the way it was and the way it could be,” Pruitt told the Daily Advocate.
He knows turning the town around won’t be quick, and it might not be easy, but he has faith in the people of the town and their desire to make things better.
“The first year is going to be trial and error,” Pruitt admitted. “I’m going to fall down and make mistakes.”
“First and foremost, I want to bring some businesses back in town,” Pruitt added, citing an active relationship between the chamber of commerce and village leadership.
Businesses not only provide a larger tax base for the community and provide employment, but they also bring other people into town.
Pruitt said he also wants to see the blighted properties in town taken care of, a task that has been of increasing priority for the council over the past several months.
His full-time job is serving as a jail officer at the Randolph County Jail.
“I think that’s going to help me out because one of my duties as mayor is to oversee the police department,” Pruitt said. “It’s taught me a lot about that side of the badge. It’s going to help me a lot to help me make my police department better.”
Pruitt said he has “worked very well” with Union City’s police chief, David McHenry, so he thinks they will be able to achieve a lot together.
The ballot measure to pass a tax levy supporting the police department did not pass in November, so Pruitt said one of his priorities will be seeking out as many grant and alternative funding solutions he can find — for the police department, the fire department and other improvements in the community.
Pruitt said he is looking to inspire other people in his age group to step up and get involved in the town.
“I’ve shown a 31-year-old can be mayor,” Pruitt said. “It’s time for the next generation to take control and take charge. I want to make this a place our people can be more proud of and get people to work together.”
Pruitt has his own inspiration at home. He’s been with his wife, Alisha, for eight years and they’ve been married almost five years. They have a 6-year-old daughter in the first grade and another child due in February.
“It’s a place our kids are going to grow up, and I want to make it better for them,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said he was inspired to participate in community leadership when he was living on the Indiana side.
“We were having some issues,” he said, without specifically elaborating. “It got me interested in what our local government was doing.”
He said he moved to the Ohio side, and when a seat came open on council, he was still interested enough to want to get involved himself.
He described seeing the problems in the community and wondering what could be done about them.
“It was always ‘why don’t they?’ — now that I’m in here, it’s ‘how can I?” Pruitt said, noting how citizens sometimes don’t recognize the legal and financial limitations and restrictions that can be involved in getting things done.
Pruitt had nothing but praise for the council he’s had the privilege of working with over the past two years.
“We’ve had a great council,” he said. “We’re going to make things happen this year.”
His enthusiasm can’t be doubted, and in small town politics, enthusiastic leadership can make all the difference.
“I’m young, full of energy and it’s ‘go’ time,” Pruitt said. “We have a great group, and we’re having fun.”
Pruitt said he’s looking forward to diving right into the job and learning everything he can about making the community work.
“I’m thinking of training,” he said. “I plan on learning everything, from running the register to the details of grants and ordinances. I’m ready to get in there and get started. Next year’s going to be an interesting year for me. My first meeting, I’ll probably look like I’m terrified.”
Council meetings are open to the public, and Pruitt’s first as mayor will be Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.