Mark Sobczak can see a lot of Toledo from his new office.
The newest elected member of Toledo’s city council said he plans to lend his perspective to the governing body and to the city.
”A lot of people who live here don’t understand our geography,” he said, sitting in his office on the 21st floor of One Government Center. He said he aims to change that.
”I went from being pretty much a political nobody to the third vote-getter,” he said. ”That’s a big sign to me that folks are looking for new leadership, new ideas.”
Sobczak, whose father, Edward, was a Toledo police captain, grew up with city politics at the dinnertable. He said he isn’t worried about the A-Team versus B-Team mentality in the Toledo Democratic Party.
”I don’t care,” he said. ”I’d like to move forward. I’d like to see everyone take the high road.”
He said he found that, on the campaign trail, many people asked what he could do to help repair the rift in his party. The most recent reason for the split was the mayoral race. A-Teamers backed former mayor Jack Ford and B-Teamers endorsed Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in the November 2005 election.
Since his swearing-in Jan. 3, Sobczak has been trying to cement relations from the bottom up, visiting and talking with city employees and renewing ties with Finkbeiner.
”I want it so [city employees] can feel connected to City Hall,” he said. ”I want to be that person.”
Sobczak and Finkbeiner have known each other since Finkbeiner was a city councilman.
”He has more energy and drive than most people half his age,” he said. ”He is surrounding himself with capable individuals.”
The councilman said he sees Finkbeiner as more of a visionary than a hands-on leader.
”I think the time was right for him to be back at the reins of the city,” Sobczak said. ”He surrounds himself with capable individuals and delegates. That’s evidenced by the GM thing — a $4.3 million package in ten days.”
Sobczak said he felt the sting of partisanship within a party when an opponent took negative political ads out in local newspapers.
”I knew there would be some pushback,” he said. He hopes to help change the tone.
”We’ve made progress already,” he said. ”We have to take small steps to take bigger steps.”
Sobczak called the process of becoming a more coherent group ”Playing Well With Others 101.”
”When you disagree, you disagree privately,” Sobczak said. ”And people can read between the lines, but hopefully the 12 of us can learn to work as a group to work those issues out.”
The tough issues awaiting the council in the next few years should prove a fertile ground for testing their growth as a team.
”We really have an aggressive agenda,” he said. ”The Marina District, the Sports Arena, Westgate, Southwyck, the GM project — we can’t have a council with organizational issues. We don’t have the luxury to continue infighting.
”I am very confident we will emerge in very short order as a cohesive group ready to grow our city and our tax base, ready to improve our 88 square miles.
”Voters don’t expect a knight in shining armor,” he said. ”Just hard work, responsiveness, and a heavy dose of common sense. The rest will happen on its own.”