Judge selects 2 new Mill Creek Park Commissioners

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert Rusu announced Thursday the two new commissioners for the Mill Creek Metro Park Board.

Lee Frey, a former Canfield mayor and school teacher, and Thomas Shipka, the former Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at YSU, were selected out of five candidates recommended last week.

A selection committee made up of community members interviewed seven finalists for the position and recommended five of them to Rusu.

The judge then interviewed those five candidates personally before making his decision.

Frey currently volunteers with “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley.” Rusu said he can easily communicate his ideas and past public service, which will help the Board.

Shipka is a member of the Nature Conservancy and co-founder of the Citizens League of Greater Youngstown. The judge said he is well-respected, has served in many leadership roles and has been active with community service to the park for years.

“One of the objectives I would have is to restore public trust in the leadership of Mill Creek Park. I think that has suffered recently,” Shipka said.

He also wants to take a careful look at the solvency of the park over the short and long-term to provide the community with services it expects.

“I would like to get involved in the development area. I have a long history of that at YSU and my guess is that the park, if it’s going to be solvent in the long-term, is going to have to raise a great deal more funds from corporate and private donors,” he said.

As far as the issue of whether or not to fire Executive Director Aaron Young, Shipka says there should be public justification in advance for a major decision like the layoffs in February.

“I am not prepared to say that the executive director must go. I need to gather more information before I would reach that conclusion. I am, however, disappointed in the way certain decisions were made in recent months.”

He is expecting critics, but hopes things will calm down so they can focus on the future.

Frey was not available for comment Thursday night.

The oath of office for Frey and Shipka will be held on Friday.

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