COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Looking back, Joe Schiavoni says growing up in Youngstown was great. He is the oldest of four boys; at one point all of them were under the age of nine and absolutely driving their mother crazy according to Schiavoni.
While he was growing up, Schiavoni wanted to be just like his father and his grandfather.
His dad worked as an attorney handling workers compensation cases, as did his grandfather, and he was also a boxer.
Schiavoni says as a young man, his father would take him to the gym and that’s where he decided he wanted to box as well.
Schiavoni had several amateur fights and did well, but ultimately it was law school for him.
He had always been impressed by, and learned from, his grandfather’s example.
Schiavoni says he never saw his grandfather treat anyone differently, it was always with respect; whether they were a judge or a janitor, everyone was respected.
At a time in this country’s history when the fight for civil rights seemed to be at its apex and racism, especially in Youngstown, was a serious issue his grandfather led by example in how to treat people; and was friends with everyone according to Schiavoni
Schiavoni says this lesson of treating everyone equally with respect has served him well in his life, and was put to the test when he entered the realm of politics.
At 29 years old, Schiavoni says he had no political background and no family ties to politics.
That’s when a State Senate seat opened up in his district. Unhappy with the option given to them, the caucus leadership opened up the application process to anyone who wanted to take a shot at doing the job.
Several people told him he would be good at it, and after talking with his then fiancé he decided to apply.
When he was chosen Schiavoni was idealistic and some would say a bit naïve to what he was about to walk into.
He had aspirations that he would go to Columbus and that everyone would like him and want to work with him to get things done; it was a rude awakening when that didn’t happen.
Schiavoni was a member of the minority party, he wasn’t needed and he was treated as such.
He realized two things in that moment; first being a State Senator was going to be a full time, 60 hours a week, job; and second he was going to have to earn other lawmakers respect.
He eventually would do that and along the way, he was elevated to a position of leadership within the caucus.