Westerville News & Public Opinion

'Long and varied road' leads Cocuzzi to council

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When Kathy Cocuzzi was elected to Westerville City Council eight years ago, she said it was a continuation of her service to the community.

Cocuzzi, 61, is now seeking her third term on council. She's joined in the Nov. 5 race by incumbents Jenifer French, Mike Heyeck and Larry Jenkins, and challenger Doug Rankin.

Cocuzzi moved to Westerville from the Cleveland area 31 years ago with husband, David, and quit her day job to be a stay-at-home mom.

A mom of three, she was an active PTA member, worked on school levy campaigns and served on the Westerville Public Library Board of Trustees for nine years. She's serving her 18th year with the Westerville Education Foundation.

In 2001, she came in fourth in a race for three open seats on the Westerville Board of Education.

"I thought: Where else can I focus?" Cocuzzi said.

She looked into serving with the city government, and served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Charter Review Commission before she decided to run for City Council in 2005.

"It was a long and varied road for me (to council)," Cocuzzi said. "I'm just an active person, and I've always been a volunteer. ... It's just what you do in the community that you live in."

Cocuzzi said she didn't enter city government with specific issues on her mind.

"I never came with an agenda," Cocuzzi said. "I thought that I could contribute more to the city I love by serving on council."

In her time on council, Cocuzzi said she has grown to appreciate Westerville's constant eye on the future.

"The fact that we have a five-year plan is exciting to me," she said "You have to have vision."

She said the recent examination of how Schrock Road should be redone demonstrates the city's willingness to consider a multitude of options and weigh community feedback to come to the best decisions.

"I welcome comments and calls and emails from people," Cocuzzi said.

For the last four years, Cocuzzi has served as mayor, a position she was appointed to by her fellow council members.

She said she loves holding the post, which has her officiating weddings, attending ribbon-cuttings, working with various community groups and speaking about the community.

"Being mayor has been a great opportunity for me," Cocuzzi said.

As mayor, she's volunteered on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast committee and helped to organize the Year of the Arts, events she said has helped bring residents together from across the community.

If re-elected, Cocuzzi said she looks forward to working on moving the community forward, such as by completing and implementing the Uptown plan.

"I think we need to respect our history and plan for the future," she said. "That's what's kept us with that small-town feel."

The city also needs to work on improving older areas through redevelopment and focus on economic development to draw more jobs and people in.

"We need to continue to improve and offer more selection for our residents," Cocuzzi said. "That makes people want to visit and residents what to stay."

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