MANSFIELD -- Jodie Perry said Tuesday that Mansfield has reached a turning point in its 214-year history.
The president and CEO of the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development said she wants to help the city choose the right path forward as Mansfield's next mayor.
During an afternoon event at the gazebo in Central Park, the 45-year-old announced she will be a Republican candidate in the 2023 May primary election
"We're in a really key moment in time right now as a state, but particularly as a region. I think with all the things happening ... Intel ... we're getting a lot of looks and we're primed for growth," Perry said before being introduced by state Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby).
"So I think if we can capitalize on that, we're gonna look back at this time as being really kind of a turning point in our history. So that's really what made me interested (in running for mayor)."
Perry has led the local chamber since 2014. She is an Ashland University graduate originally from Rochester, N.Y.
She is the fourth Republican to express interest in the GOP mayoral race. Finance Director Linn Steward, At-large City Council member Stephanie Zader and James Holzinger have taken out petitions.
No Democratic candidate had pulled a petition for the mayor's race as of Tuesday morning, according to the Richland County Board of Elections.
Current Mayor Tim Theaker, also a Republican, is in his third and final four-year term as mayor, prevented by the city's charter from seeking re-election.
Perry said she recognizes the challenges the next mayor will face, especially in terms of finances. A change in attitude will also play a difference, she said.
"While finances are stable right now, that remains an ongoing challenge that we're gonna have to look at. Obviously, we're watching the macro economy kind of do some odd things right now. I'm certainly watching that closely," Perry said.
"I think the challenge is to get people excited about what's happening in the city and build this confidence that we're doing great things," Perry said. "Great things are happening already, but I think if we can make that more public and if you can hear that coming from the public sector in the city, that's gonna make a big difference."
The seeds for her mayoral run were planted when she joined a contingent of Mansfield residents at South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, in 2018 as part of the Mansfield Rising downtown reinvestment plan.
"I'm in a high-profile job and in different chambers I've worked in, people have suggested it. And I was very much like, 'No, I don't wanna do that,' " she said.
"The year we went (to Austin), they had a city track basically that you could go to. And I did. I sat there and listened to mayors on both sides of the aisle from large cities and small cities on a number of topics, talk about what they were doing to revitalize their areas.
"And that was probably where the first seed was planted ... that local government really can make a very immediate impact on people's lives," Perry said. "It was a long ways from me to get from that to here, but that was really where it started."
Perry said she has built relationships throughout the community that will help her first political bid, regardless of opposition.
"I've made my career working across the aisle and I plan to continue doing that," he said. "My thought is no matter who ends up running against me, I'm just going to focus on the race that I am planning.
"I am, by nature, a positive person. So that's how I want to head into this. I want to share with the voters what my vision is for Mansfield and what we can do together," she said.
In introducing Perry, John, a former Richland County commissioner and Shelby mayor, recalled the day she met the chamber leader eight years ago.
"I was attending a groundbreaking in Richland County and I looked over and I saw this young woman from the state of New York. She had just moved into our community and I went over and introduced myself.
"I knew she had just taken the position as president of the chamber. And one of the first things I noticed about Jodie was her infectious smile and how her smile reaches all parts of her being," John said.
John also recalled, "(Perry's) distinct laugh and also her calm, but strong demeanor. Over the last eight years, there are many things that I have come to count on as a community leader when it comes to Jodie Perry."
The state lawmaker also praised Perry for her efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Jodie has been a calm voice during the chaos. When many were struggling to find a way forward, Jodie hunkered down and she found ways to bring us all together," said John, a county commissioner when COVID-19 hit in early 2020.
"Even when we couldn't physically be together, Jodie found ways to bring us all together.
"Her lengthy emails, they gave us so much information. She built bridges in chaos. Because of that, I also came to appreciate her commitment to this area, her commitment to finding solutions for issues that exist, her commitment to again building bridges between public and private entities, her commitment to our community and our region," John said.
"Jodie's leadership and vision has brought energy and excitement to Mansfield, and it has given direction at a time when we really needed it," John said.
In her own remarks to supporters who gathered for the event, Perry said the key is growing the community.
"Obviously, that's what I work on day in and day out currently, but we need to bring in more jobs. We need to bring in more residents to work those jobs, of course.
"With Intel and all of the things that are happening on an economic development perspective, I think there's a lot of looks being taken at Ohio. And I think Mansfield is very well situated to be able to take advantage of that. That's one of the things I want to help them to do.
"Secondly, I think there's an opportunity to invest in our neighborhoods, in our community infrastructure. Infrastructure doesn't make everyone excited, but it is the base of everything that we have here in our community. And we certainly know when it isn't working correctly, as unfortunately we've seen happen across the country in other communities," she said.
"If you know me at all, you know, I'm an optimist by nature. That doesn't mean I don't have tough days and I don't get frustrated, but I really am excited about what lies ahead.
"I hope that I have this opportunity to serve the community in this way."