WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – At Wednesday night’s Warren City Council meeting, there was someone new sitting at the 2nd Ward councilman’s desk — the seat was occupied by Al Novak for the past 30 years. Novak was first elected in 1991 and re-elected 15 times until last year, when he lost in the Democratic primary to Andrew Herman. Today, we talked with Novak about spending his entire political career in one spot.
With the nameplate removed from his 30-year seat in the Warren City Council chambers, Novak sat near his old desk, still his usual, animated self.
“That was the thing that cut the throat of the bull, right there,” he said.
For all of his 68 years, Novak has lived in the same house on Bonnie Brae Avenue in Warren. His interest in politics came at an early age. His father was actively involved with the steelworkers union and lived across the street from city councilman Edward Dick.
“I just was interested. I said, ‘Mr. Dick, I’d like to come to the meeting down there,'” Novak said.
In 1991, he ran for 2nd Ward city councilman, won and wouldn’t lose for 30 years.
“This is the nightmare on Tod Avenue,” he once said.
Novak was one of the first people to go inside the former St. Joseph Hospital and publicly lobby for its demolition.
“I mean, there were all kinds of big drums of PCB, lubricating oil. Unbelievable. There were two big rooms of the old fluorescent tubes that had mercury in them,” he said.
Novak was disappointed he couldn’t get the eyesore hospital demolished but was happy to be part of getting the Downtown Motor Inn and the former Mahoningside generating plant torn down.
He also says the number of rental properties changed the face of his ward. At one point, it had tripled.
“Illegally, they would take that house and they would change it into two apartments and then they’d sneak another one in or they’d want to put basement apartments in, and that was another big fight,” he said.
Novak estimates between 300 and 350 houses were demolished in his ward. In some neighborhoods, the mix of houses and vacant lots is noticeable.
“And I only missed five meetings in 30 years,” he said.
Thirty years and 15 elections. How did he keep on winning?
“I did my job,” Novak said.
We asked if he would ever consider running again and he said no, he’s done.