GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) — Girard’s longtime mayor has a challenger in the Democratic primary election this May.

Democrat voters will decide between incumbent Jim Melfi and Mark Zuppo in the race for Girard mayor.

“I still have the energy, I have the passion, I have the experience,” Melfi said.

“I want to make Girard the heart of the Valley,” Zuppo said. “I want to be a vessel for the people’s voice.”

Melfi is in his 24th year as the city’s mayor. He says in his tenure, some of his biggest accomplishments were preventing a proposed landfill, cleaning up the old leatherworks site, being a part of the V&M negotiations and bringing the city out of fiscal emergency.

“What I’m very proud of is, despite all those difficulties, did not raise the income tax,” Melfi said. “It’s been six years since we’ve increased water and sewer.”

Zuppo is currently the city’s treasurer. He’s been a school board member for 16 years, and has served as board president for the past seven. He previously served on council in the 1990s and has been the voice of the Girard Indians for 26 years.

Prior to his retirement, Zuppo worked as a medical device salesperson.

“I think a lot of people feel like they haven’t been heard, and I just want them to know that they’ve got — I’ve got — an ear here that listens,” Zuppo said.

Both Melfi and Zuppo have visions for the future. Should Melfi be re-elected, he wants to maintain the city’s finances, make infrastructure improvements, and continue to move forward with the purchase of the old Wellman Theater.

“It has a great history in town, and it would really be the cornerstone of turning around that block of downtown,” Melfi said.

Zuppo says if he’s elected, he wants to plan for the future, update utilities, revitalize downtown and utilize what he feels is Girard’s biggest long-term revenue stream: the Girard Lake.

“I would probably have some public hearings and ask the people what they’d like to see up there. It could be residential, it could be recreational, it could be combination. It could be light manufacturing, warehousing,” Zuppo said. “You could do a variety of things.”