Getchey Reflects on His 41 Years at Eastgate

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments secured funds for numerous multimillion-dollar transportation and infrastructure projects during John Getchey’s tenure as its executive director. But his favorite wasn’t a major transportation artery but rather a bike path, he says.

Getchey, who was hired in 1974 by what was then known as the Eastgate Development and Transportation Agency, yesterday oversaw his final general policy board meeting as Eastgate’s executive director, a post he has held since January 1989.

Among the official actions taken during the meeting was the vote by policy board members to hire Getchey’s successor, James G. Kinnick Sr.

Kinnick is planning and engineering administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 4. He will begin at Eastgate Dec. 7 and take over as executive director Jan. 1.

“I certainly realize I have big shoes to fill,” Kinnick acknowledged.

During his presentation and following the meeting, Getchey reminisced about time with the regional planning agency. “It was never dull, I can tell you that,” he reflected.

Hired by EDATA’s first executive director, Bill Fergus, as chief environmental engineer in charge of water quality, Getchey succeeded him when Fergus was elected Mahoning County engineer in 1989.

Among the major projects Eastgate helped secure funds for was the 711 Connector, which improves freeway access between Mahoning and Trumbull counties. The link, which opened in 2005, “took us 30 years,” including a time when the project was cancelled then resurrected, he said.

Getchey says his “favorite project of all time” is the first phase of the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail, which he recalled had some early opposition.

“It was a unique project. It was something new,” he said. Since that second phase of the trail opened in 2000, bike trails have “really taken off” and, once a few small sections are completed, cyclists will be able to ride from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, he said.

Another key project was the reopening of East and West Federal streets in downtown Youngstown, which helped spur downtown’s revitalization.

“Transportation projects, in addition to solving safety problems and taking care of congestion, they are economic development,” Getchey remarked.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that our elected officials and our member communities in Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties have trusted us to find grant money to get projects funded and built without very many questions,” he said. “We help them where we can. …We try to get the projects funded some way.”

Among the past and present colleagues and officeholders Getchey took note of was former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who died in September 2014.

“We worked with the congressman for 16 years on bringing project funding into the region,” Getchey recalled. “The congressman was able to bring a lot of money into the Valley that resulted in a number of major projects being constructed that otherwise, I don’t think, would have been constructed,” he said

One day shortly after he became executive director, Getchey recalled, law enforcement officers showed up with a search warrant stemming from an investigation of a sister agency in Akron that his predecessor had had a couple of contracts with. Officers pulled 14 boxes of files, he said.

“We never heard another word about it” until receiving a call a couple of years later to retrieve the files that were taken, he said.

“I didn’t know anything about this raid,” Kinnick remarked, laughing.

Eastgate has moved five times since he has been with the agency, he said. Nine years ago, the agency moved back downtown after five years in Austintown. “I think we finally got it right,” he said.

Getchey “lived up to” Eastgate’s mission statement, remarked Joe Warino, Canfield city manager and director of Eastgate’s finance committee.

That mission is to provide a “regional forum to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern, and to develop recommendations and plans to address those issues …in hopes of leading to a common goal of improving the quality of life for the residents of northeast Ohio,” according to Eastgate’s website.

Getchey’s personality made him “a natural” for the executive director’s position, an attribute the search committee looked for in his successor, Warino said.

“When you’re dealing with a limited amount of funding and talking to several agencies all asking for the same dollars, John was the greatest mediator,” he said. “He was able to bring everybody to the table and walk away shaking hands.”

Pictured: John Getchey

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