Joseph Cimaomo, Jr., started meeting with Covington City Council members and staff not long after he defeated Dave Lucavish in the Nov. 5 election.
Not only is Cimaomo the newest City Council member, but at 28, he is the youngest. He is passionate about politics and government and he knows it will take time to learn how to be a council member.
In some ways, though, Ciamaomo’s youth and energy could be a good thing.
“I believe it is a benefit being a younger age, being a young family guy,” he said. “Being that young guy gives me that fresh set of eyes. What’s worked in the past 20 years may not work work in the future.”
Cimaomo said during an interview Dec. 5, just a few days before his new council member orientation Monday at City Hall, he was told to expect to leave with stacks of three-ring binders filled with reading material in preparation for his first meeting in January.
“I’ve just been attending the meetings,” Cimaomo said. “Again, just keeping involved, speaking with city staff, talking with Derek (Matheson, city manager).”
Cimaomo, who is originally from California, moved with his family to Kent in 1992 then into the Covington area in 1999. He is a 2004 graduate of Kentwood High. He has been married for more than six years and has a 5-year-old son. Cimaomo is a manager at Big Lots!
While he may be new to city government when he is sworn in next month, Cimaomo said he learned much about what residents want in his campaigns — he challenged Marlla Mhoon in 2011 — that he hopes to bring to the conversations in City Hall in the future.
“What I did was really just got out there and knocked on doors and made sure I knocked on as many doors and talked to as many people as possible,” Cimaomo said. “What I really learned in those last two campaigns, the people of Covington, they may not be coming to the council meetings but they stay informed. They appreciated me coming out here. One lady said, ‘I’m going to put this on my refrigerator because if you come to my door it shows that you care. They want to know that their elected officials are going out there and keeping them informed.”
Cimaomo wants to focus on a handful of issues in his first year on the council — he will serve a four year term.
“My biggest concern and thing I really want to work on this year is I want to work on roads and finding a solution to that problem,” Cimaomo said. “Is it the transportation benefit district? I’m not sure. I want to work on finding a solution. It’s something I want to bring up at council meetings. We need to fix our roads. That’s a conversation I’ve been having constantly with council members … what’s the best option.”
Covington formed a transportation benefit district earlier this year. It is overseen by the City Council in its capacity as the TBD board of directors. A TBD would allow the city to generate additional revenue through a few routes including a sales tax increase, which was recommended by a report put together in 2012 by the city’s budget priorities advisory committee, a group of residents who went over the city’s finances with a fine-toothed comb. The sales tax increase was put to the voters Nov. 5, but failed by a small margin.
Had it passed, revenues generated by the sales tax increase could have been put toward road projects on city streets as well as making it possible for the city to hire another police officer. Public safety is among the other issues on Cimaomo’s agenda.
“As far as other issues that we have, adding to our police force, seeing how that works out,” Cimamo said. “And really working on our parks plans, working closely with our parks director, seeing what our parks commission comes up with and providing those things for young families to do on those warm summer days. We’re taking great steps to make sure parks and recreation is a big focus.”
Cimaomo said the city has a number of young people who not only like to play video games but like to play outside, walk on trails, participate in sports and go to events in the city preferably in its parks system.
He added that he is looking forward to how the Hawk property subarea planning process develops as the city plans for that chunk of land off of Southeast 256th Street and state Route 18 which is set to be developed with possibly retail and housing.
“I want to ensure that we’re doing it the right way,” Cimaomo said. “I just want to make sure we’re going to build what’s right for the city so we’re not a cookie cutter city.”
Cimaomo added that it means so much to him to have earned the approval of voters in Covington.
“I may have been born in California but Covington has been my home for so long,” he said. “The fact that the people of Covington have given me this opportunity to make sure their home is great and is growing responsibly is something that I cherish. I will be at their doors again sometime this summer to keep them informed.”