By Steve Grazier
Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry spends the majority of her time running a city with more than 32,000 people.
With such a busy profession, the mayor has become a maestro for the tasks of planning and prioritizing. She balances work and an active life at home that includes young children and is also a participant in multiple civic organizations throughout Stark County.
“It’s magic,” she said about fitting her days together like a jigsaw puzzle. “Sometimes you just have to make it all work like that.”
The mother of six children and grandmother of five has been selected as About Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2020.
On November 5, Catazaro-Perry earned a third term as Massillon’s mayor with a convincing general election victory. She hinted that this might be her last term as mayor, as she may look toward a future professional role that relates to “focusing on kids and families.”
The mayor said she’s blessed to have a supportive family and tight group of friends, all who help motivate her on the occasional down days. But she looks to her faith first and foremost.
“I truly want to make the world a better place. It starts by keeping God first, family second and then serving my community,” she said.
The 57-year-old Catazaro-Perry has two children still at home. She has a special-needs daughter, Vanessa, who is 14, and an adopted son, Tony, 11.
Both kids are involved in social activities that seem to fill up parts of every week, keeping the mayor and her husband, Dr. Tony Perry, frequently on the go.
Vanessa is a participant in cheerleading, tap dancing, wheelchair basketball and the church choir. And Tony is active in soccer, basketball, baseball and choir.
“We’re often juggling who goes where and when. I’ve always kept my kids busy, so they stay out of trouble,” Catazaro-Perry said with a touch of sarcasm.
The mayor is also involved in multiple civic groups, such as the Aultman Women’s Board, Massillon Woman’s Club and Walsh University Women’s Committee.
In 2005, Catazaro-Perry and her oldest daughter, Nicole Wohlheter, spearheaded an effort to start American Elite Idols, which is a local special-needs cheerleading team. Vanessa is part of the 30-member squad.
The cheering group has a trip planned for March to Disney World in Florida.
“This is something nice for all of them to do. They work hard and deserve it,” Catazaro-Perry said.
Catazaro-Perry said she typically garners her motivation for the job of mayor from the residents of the city she’s run for the past eight years.
Municipal residents rely on her administration to provide quality basic services, such as snow removal and street repaving, as well as have quality police and fire service.
“It’s important to make sure they’re really taken care of,” Catazaro-Perry said of the folks she serves. “I take that responsibility very seriously and to heart.”
She has a tight-knit group of professionals, or what she refers to as her inner circle, that she relies on for advice on big city issues.
“I look to my (administration) staff. They are always my core,” said Catazaro-Perry, adding that a handful of close friends are also there for moral support.
Interestingly, perhaps, family is not who she refers to for professional guidance when in a pinch.
“Sometimes my husband (Tony) finds out things later,” she joked. “We’re just a busy group.”
Catazaro-Perry cited some main accomplishments over the past year that aim to move Massillon forward.
The recent opening of the Aultman Massillon emergency center on Wales Road NE is one highlight. The revamped facility is replacing many of the medical services lost by the closing of Affinity Medical Center in early 2018.
Catazaro-Perry and her administration worked for months to help reach a deal with Aultman Health Foundation to expand services at the previous Aultman West site, including a new emergency department. It was renamed Aultman Massillon on November 1.
“They’re seeing 45 patients a day there. It’s been great for our community,” she said, noting the early success of the new ER.
The completed construction of the downtown Lincoln Way streetscape is another achievement cited by the mayor as paramount for Massillon.
Although the project had a few hiccups in the form of construction delays, she said it should be an economic driver to downtown.
“This was really needed, and the work is beautiful,” Catazaro-Perry said. “This will benefit our downtown businesses and encourage further (second- and third-floor) development. I’m proud our city will be more of a destination.”