Kent is Perfect for Faculty and Staff Who Want a Small Town with Big Town Amenities 

Kent State Works Stacked Graphic

Ten years ago, the New York Times featured Kent City Manager Dave Ruller and Kent State University’s then-President Lester A. Lefton in an article touting their college town-gown success. Kent State Today is following up on that article, looking at the different ways the town-gown relationship is still flourishing. Read more about the background of the relationship here.   

Fourth Time’s a Charm for the Florentine Family 

After working at Kent State’s University Communications and Marketing department for eight years, alumnus Jeff Florentine, '11; his wife, Jen; and son, Beckett, 5, moved to Kent in July 2022.  

The Florentines had lived in suburban, rural and semi-urban cities and towns in Northeast Ohio for years before making the move.  

Florentine grew up in Kirkland, and lived in Lakewood for three years, Independence for three years and Munson Township for more than four years before buying their fourth house and making Kent their home. They wanted to raise their son in a remarkable community while demonstrating their passion for Kent State. 

“The ultimate decision was for our son,” said Florentine, who is a senior graphic designer. “I wanted to be in a more diverse place.” 

When Florentine attended Kent State from 2005 to 2011, the city was different. 

“They didn’t have the businesses or infrastructure here,” he remembers. “They started to clean it up and it started to change” 

In Kent, Beckett, who started kindergarten this year, can walk to Davey Elementary School. And it doesn’t hurt that there are restaurants downtown where the family can grab something for dinner. 

The Florentines shop downtown, and Beckett gets his hair cut at Jasons' Barber Shop. And they enjoy walking throughout Kent because of its “beautiful botanic and geologic diversity.” 

“This summer will be a nice summer.” 

Florentine admires downtown Kent’s transformation. He loves to see the new development, as well as the thoughtful restoration, and he hopes that city leaders continue to add value to the city by maintaining the history and integrity of its heritage. 

“Having grown up in Northeast Ohio, it's a joy to see a city that is so loved and well kept,” Florentine said. “Downtown is a solid illustration of how important community development is. Beautiful cities are an attraction. MSK (Main Street Kent) and all of the other local institutions that provide services to the community actively engage the public, which makes it a win all around."  

Haymaker Farmer’s Market Helped Seal the Deal for Dana Miller-Cotto and Family 

For Dana Miller-Cotto, a new assistant professor at Kent State, and her husband, David Cotto, moving to a small college town such as Kent last August brought them to the perfect setting to raise their 2-year-old son.  

But the fact that Kent is home to the Haymaker Farmers' Market downtown, which reminded them of a beloved farmers' market in Oakland, California, proved to be the clincher when it came to choosing Kent as their home. 

“One of the things we loved about living there (Oakland) was this huge farmers' market, and one of the big draws for us here was the farmers' market downtown,” Miller-Cotto said. “The easy access to the library, bars and restaurants were also a big draw. It just felt like a really easy place to live. It didn't feel like we had to drive too far to get anything or to go anywhere. We didn't feel like we had to really try very hard.” 

Dana Miller-Cotto, a new assistant professor at Kent State, and her husband David Cotto, were drawn to Kent by the Haymakers Farmer's Market downtown.

The couple relocated to Northeast Ohio last year when Miller-Cotto began a position as an assistant professor of psychology. David Cotto also works at Kent State, in the Human Resources department. They had always lived in large cities before relocating to Kent, which happens to be the smallest city Miller-Cotto has made home. 

“We are both from a large city, New York City,” she said. “We've only ever lived in big cities, and I think the draw to Kent was the small college town feel with access to a major downtown area.” 

Miller-Cotto enjoys having the easy accessibility of walking from her office on campus to downtown Kent. 

“At least once a week, I try to eat downtown, "Miller-Cotto said. “I feel like supporting the local businesses is important.” 

The cost of living in Kent was surprisingly lower than they were accustomed to, which makes home ownership within their reach. 

“We are hoping to buy a house closer to campus in the next two to three years,” Miller-Cotto said. “We definitely want to stay in Kent. We have no intentions of leaving Kent.” 


POSTED: Friday, March 17, 2023 10:00 AM
Updated: Friday, April 21, 2023 12:17 PM
April McClellan-Copeland