Editor’s Note: Toledo Free Press is interviewing all seven mayoral candidates who have filed petitions with the Board of Elections (Opal Covey, Carty Finkbeiner, Don Gozdowski, Rob Ludeman, Martin Okonski, Keith Wilkowski and Jack Ford). We will profile one candidate per week up to the September 13 primary election. Each of the candidates will answer a series of standard questions, but the conversations will also include other topics the mayoral hopefuls see as important for Toledo voters.
Despite temperatures in the 90s and a humidity reading of ”swamp” in the July heat, Opal Covey seemed comfortable.
”I usually walk Downtown, and the heat doesn’t bother me,” she said while walking toward Promenade Park. ”Besides, you have to able to handle the heat if you want to be in government.”
Covey, who operates a ministry with her canine companion Tony, said voters dissatisfied with the status quo need look no further than her.
”If you want things to get better in Toledo, you have to do things differently,” she said. ”The Toledo Police know it. When they see me on the street, they say over their loudspeakers: ’Opal Covey – our next mayor!’ ”
On her qualifications to be mayor: Walking along the riverfront, Covey waved and greeted everyone she passed.
”I have a smile for everybody,” she said. ”I am a people person.”
Covey talked about the ways in which her administration would be different.
”I, Opal, bring you new government,” she said. ”I bring change.”
While never formally attending college, Covey said she has spent a great deal of time at UT’s law library.
”I have become very knowledgeable about the law, and I have learned how to work as a paralegal,” she said. ”I do all of my own legal filings and prepare for all of my own court cases.”
On a new sports arena: Covey said a new arena should be built on the East Side.
”The voters wanted the new arena on the East Side of town,” she said. ”The only other place I think an arena might make sense would be on the site of the old auto plant on Jeep Parkway.”
On hurdles Toledo must overcome: The biggest problem facing Toledo, according to Covey, is the aftermath she termed ”decades of destruction.”
”The old regimes should be known for what they were: forces of destruction,” she asserted. ”The corruption and moral failures of previous administrations must be cleaned up before we can move ahead.”
On Toledo’s assets: Covey said she wants to build on the strength of existing Toledo cultural landmarks.
”We have a great art museum, COSI, a great zoo and Fifth Third Field,” she said. ”As soon as we build an amusement park and the new arena, we will have the core in place to attract new businesses and residents.”
On public schools: Covey said discord between district officials and the union is the most serious problem facing Toledo Public Schools.
”What has to happen first is that the various parties - superintendent, unions, and employees - have to get together and put aside their differences,” she said. ”I will work to bring the people to the table and have constructive conversations.”
On the city’s budget: The city’s finances are a major concern to Covey.
”One of the first things that I will do is to call for an audit. Where is all the money going?” she asked. ”Nobody seems to know how the tax money is spent.”
On the Downtown business district: The key to reviving Downtown Toledo, according to Covey, is the development of a riverfront amusement park.
”For years I have called for the riverfront to be turned into an amusement park,” she said. ”Nothing will bring people to the area and spend money like an amusement park.”
On lowering crime rates: Covey said her experience as a local business owner makes her uniquely qualified to be mayor.
”I owned a business for 15 years on Fassett, in one of the areas with the highest amount of drug dealers. I know all about crime,” she said. ”Once there are more jobs and more money coming into the city, we will see the crime rates drop.”
On city services: One of Covey’s chief concerns is the condition of city streets.
”The roads in Toledo are terrible. How can we attract businesses and people with such awful roads?” she asked. ”The money is supposed to be there, but the roads never seem to get fixed.”
On her lack of experience as an elected official: Although she has never been elected to public office, Covey said that she is in good hands.
”I have the best advisor of all - God. He has called me to help save this city, and I know that with His help I will help make this a holy city,” she said. ”When I say ’holy,’ I don’t mean that everyone is going to suddenly become perfect, but that we will shine like a beacon to the world.”
On possible conflict between her ministry and the job of mayor: Covey saw no conflict wearing the hats of both mayor and prophetess: ”God made the government, so God will always be a part of government.”
On her candidacy: Covey bristled at the suggestion she is running for mayor as a publicity stunt.
”I am doing this because God called me, not for myself,” she reiterated. ”By electing me, the voters will be doing God’s will to make Toledo a quality city.”
On her previous legal troubles: Covey, while bitter at city officials for padlocking her pet stores, remained upbeat about the future.
”Despite their attempts to call me crazy and run me out of town, I’m still here and still fighting for the average person,” she said. ”I am a survivor, and it is God’s will that these things happened the way that they did.”
On her decision to run for mayor: A vision from God made Covey decide to run for mayor in 2001, and this vision prompted her to file petitions again in 2005.
”I never thought about running for mayor or any elected office, and then I heard a voice that told me that I was called to be mayor to save the city,” she said. ”I kept praying; I told Him, ”I cannot do it without you.”
On her most formidable opponent: Covey said that the ”forces of destruction,” or the traditional area politicians, desperately want to stop her from being elected. ”Many people are afraid of Opal Covey being elected, not just one person,” she said. ”I represent everything the old regime doesn’t want - change.”
On the Board of Elections: Covey said ballot boxes have been tampered with in past elections, and the recent changes at the Board of Elections have a divine basis.
”God has gotten all of the corrupt people out of the Board of Elections,” she declared. ”This time we will have fair elections without votes being stolen. The county cleaned house, but this work was the hand of God in action.”
On her most recent vision: God gave Covey a message for the voters of Toledo last week. The candidate read the prophecy aloud:
”A blessed new government awaits you. This is the second and last opportunity to choose a new government for Toledo through My servant Opal, whom I have sent for the job. Toledo is dead; she will resurrect through Me. If you choose to keep the old criminal government that has been cursed for many decades, the city will be destroyed.”