Moody campaigns to bring business into mayor’s officeWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jim Moody arrived in Toledo, he had $500 to his name and was driving a Ford Escort with four different colored doors.
“I decided that the greatest economic opportunity for me to be an entrepreneur was here in Toledo,” Moody said. “I had traveled to all these different cities and lived and worked there. Toledo is small enough that you can get your arms around it, yet it has the resources to do everything you want.”
Moody knew hard times in those early days, eating Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. The Eagle Scout wasn’t discouraged, though.
“My dad still has a copy of one of his paychecks on the wall where for two weeks he made $161. I come from a great family and a solid background,” he said.
When 47-year-old Moody started talking about running for mayor of Toledo, he was asked, “What are your skeletons?”
He couldn’t think of any.
“It was long, long, long ago that I decided when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I wanted to like what I was seeing.”
Next year, Moody wants to look in the mirror and see the mayor of Toledo.
The Republican is the second person to declare he is running for mayor. Democratic Keith Wilkowski is his only declared opponent so far.
“I am supporting Jim Moody without a doubt,” said June Boyd, former Democratic Toledo councilwoman. “I feel that Jim is the most qualified.”
Boyd, who is a real estate agent at Flex Realty, which Moody founded, said her business affiliation with him has nothing to do with her support. Moody wants to run the city like a business, which she thinks is a sensible idea.
As mayor, Moody would push for the sale of Toledo Express Airport, start a neighborhood renovation program and encourage a business-friendly environment.
Moody said it’s time Toledoans elect someone who understands what it means to meet a payroll; knows how to keep customers happy; and realizes the importance of keeping a budget and not borrowing on the backs of taxpayers.
“This is a nonpartisan race,” Moody said of wanting support from all parties. “For once, let’s set party partisanship aside. Toledo cannot afford politics as usual. We had 20 years of the good ol’ boy, girl network. How is that working for you?”
Moody decided he wanted to run for mayor in late summer. Two incidents confirmed that Toledo needed a new sense of leadership, he said. The first was the ruckus over the intermodal — freight that travels by more than one mode of transportation.
“This thing should have been fast-tracked a long time ago,” Moody said. “We kind of once again hurried up to play second. All the construction that is occurring in North Baltimore should have occurred in Lucas County. We have the rail lines; we have the turnpike, we have an airport and we have the docks.”
The other deciding factor was his 19-year-old daughter Chantel, who is attending The Ohio State University. She told her dad, “I couldn’t even move home if I wanted to because there are no jobs in Toledo.”
“I didn’t raise my kids and my family to move away because there is no economic opportunity,” Moody said. “I can’t prevent them from moving away because they don’t want to deal with the snow anymore or anything else like that, but that is utterly ridiculous, especially because Toledo has so much to offer. “
Moody lived in Sylvania so he moved into a house he owns in Toledo to be eligible to run for mayor. He has been criticized for the move.
“I am not pledging a frat,” he said. “This isn’t whether or not I am Toledoan enough.”
Moody said once elected, the family will put their Sylvania house on the market. Moody and his wife, Cheryl, also have a 14-year-old daughter, Danielle.
“It is a sacrifice. When my daughter wakes up in the morning and dad is not here … but she understands, and I try to make it up in other ways. I don’t miss her basketball games. We spend lots of time together.”
Birth of a businessman
Moody was born in the rural outskirts of Canton, graduating from Louisville High School in 1979.
His great aunt and great uncle lived in Buffalo, one of the poorest areas of Ohio, where he visited. His great-uncle lost his arm in a coal mining accident, and Moody still has his great-grandfather’s pick ax to remind him of his roots.
“In 47 years, he has been a pretty good kid,” said his mom Joanne Moody. “He is a very positive person. He has a good head on his shoulders. He won’t bring any political baggage with him. He will do a lot of good for a lot people.”
His mom said her son is a loving man. She recalled him adopting Chantel and loving her the moment he and his wife Cheryl began dating.
“She used to call him ‘Jim,’” she said of Chantel, “but from the wedding date on, he was always dad to her.”
Moody was the first in his family to attend a four-year college. He studied business, communications and history at Capital University Columbus and afterward went to work with a company specializing in dinnerware.
It was at age 24 that Moody moved to Toledo to become the general manager of Telex Communications, which owned the Cincinnati Business Journal and Toledo Business Journal.
He would leave Toledo to become the national marketing director of Myway Magazine and travel to Washington D.C., Boston, and Chicago, but he would return to the Glass City for good — this time, driving the colorful Ford Escort.
“I really like Toledo,” Moody said. “I love the natural resources. I like to hunt and fish and snowmobile and ski, and you don’t have that in the middle part of the state.”
In Toledo, Moody founded Flex Realty, partnered in HomeFinder Magazine, built R.G. Shriner Realty, expanded Shriner Real Estate School and formed a property management company. He also met his wife, Cheryl, when he came to Toledo for the second time.
“The neat thing about being entrepreneurial is you get to be artistic without having traditional artistic skills,” Moody said. “You get to create something, grow it, modify it and think of ways to make it better.”
When he and his future wife met, she didn’t believe he owned Flex Realty or that he had a magazine. She actually thought he was an airhead, Moody said, laughing.
“I knew I was going to marry my wife the minute I met her. I knew it, right then.”
When they went on their first date, Cheryl sent her identical twin to the door who said ‘Oh, you must be Jim.’”
Cheryl laughed when she recalled the trick she played.
“He is very dedicated,” she said while campaigning March 11. “He loves Toledo and is very passionate about Toledo.”
He means business
Moody is running on the motto, “Moody means business.” It has a dual meaning.
“I mean business when it comes to running this city,” Moody said. “No more games. Just like when our mothers say, ‘I mean business when I tell you this.’ ”
It also means that business must have a seat at the table of community leadership, he said.
Moody’s economic recovery plan details how to bring Toledo back to life. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package is not the sole answer.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh when the stimulus package gets here, it will all be beautiful,’” Moody said. “It reminds me of the beggar on the corner with the tin cup, hoping some one will come along and help him out.”
In his economic recovery plan, Moody acknowledged that the mayor’s office cannot create jobs, “but it can set the tone that encourages employers to locate and grow here.”
In the first 45 days of his administration, he wants to identify and recruit local leaders to resurrect the Committee of 100, which will meet monthly and establish goals to attract business and create the best possible work force, according to his economic recovery plan.
“It is time for a businessman, a nonpolitician to get involved with the leadership of Toledo,” he said.
Moody wants to encourage the railroads to expand their facilities and create an environment that allows international shipping through local customs depots.
Part of Moody’s economic recovery plan is to sell a portion of Toledo Express Airport because it is a “totally underused asset.” In his economic plan, Moody said if the airport sold for $100 million, imagine the possibilities. The Federal Aviation Administration has stated that it will allow for the sale of five airports, and the proceeds can be used for non-airport use, he said.
“First, who would invest $100 million without investing in the region as a whole? No one,” Moody stated.
Jobs will result from the new partner’s desire to build upon their investment. With $100 million, Toledo could fix its streets and retire debt, he said.
Moody said people would still be able to fly out of the airport, but the airport as a passenger-traffic only model has failed in good times and bad. When he flies, he leaves from Detroit. If he does fly out of Toledo, the first stop is Detroit. And it can add another $100 to the cost of the ticket, he said.
What a catch
Moody said Toledo must become a destination but not by bringing suburban neighbors to the ballpark and arena. One of the easiest and fastest ways is by promoting and developing the area’s natural resources, he said.
“Fishing brings millions of dollars into a community,” he stated in his economic recovery plan. “Just look at Port Clinton, on any given day, and you will find license plates from Nebraska, Minnesota, Kentucky, Indiana and even further in the parking lots of charter boat captains and public launches. What is remarkable is that, until mid to late July, those captains load their boats and bring the tourists to the mouth of the Maumee River. Those are tourists who should be stopping in Toledo and spending their money here.”
Moody knows the allure of the outdoors because of his own hobbies. For three years, Moody competed on the bass pro-circuit, fishing with bass greats like Jimmy Houston and David Fritts.
“I am not into baseball or basketball games. I cannot sit still that long. … I used to golf, but I plateaued in my skill level and I wasn’t getting any better. With bass fishing, you are always having to think about your next move. It’s a puzzle. It is so much more than going out there with a dang ol’ bobber.”
Another part of his recovery plan is the dredging of the Ottawa River. A survey by The Ohio State University found that it could have a $13 million impact on the area by making it more usable to boaters, he said.
“We need to understand that there are only so many dollars, and South Toledo cannot always fight North Toledo, and North Toledo cannot always fight East Toledo. We are in this together, and that has been one of my mantras.”
Moody also wants to encourage home-ownership through his STAR neighborhood program. Moody will loosen the restrictions enforced by Toledo. In the city, a homeowner cannot replace a wall outlet without a permit or install a vinyl window to replace a wooden window without a permit, he said. These restrictions prevent owners from improving their property and from purchasing rundown houses and fixing them up.
“Through the rental business here, so many of our renters are folks who are on the first economic tier — they are the last ones hired and the first ones fired and they are most vulnerable in this economy,” Moody said. “Yet, they are good people; they pay their bills on time, and in my opinion, they deserve to be a homeowner.”
Take Back Toledo
Moody was originally going to run on the motto “Take Back Toledo” until a group by the same name decided to launch a campaign to recall the current mayor.
Moody said he doesn’t have a relationship with the group. He went to a meeting at the request of a friend because he had the group’s URL, www.takebacktoledo.com. Organizer Tom Schlachter offered to buy it from him, but Moody gave it to him for free.
He also caught some heat after it was revealed that his nephew bought the URL that Wilkowski used for his 2005 bid for mayor. Moody said it was done half-jokingly and it upset him when it made news, but his economic recovery plan gets overlooked.
Moody said he is the only candidate who promptly came out with detailed plans for economic recovery. His experience in the real-estate world has shaped him to step into the mayor’s shoes.
“I have been sitting at the kitchen tables of both line workers, as well as executives of Fortune 500 companies. When you sit at someone’s kitchen table, you get a different discourse and discussion than if it was in a corporate setting. It is amazing how many of my past clients are still my friends today. So, that has really given me a good perception of the makeup of Toledo.”
Moody said the next mayor has to work with city council. He said the members of city council want to do the right thing, but they haven’t had the inspiration or the openness from the mayor’s office.
“The other thing is that if Toledo is going to survive, we have to eliminate the parochial interests that drive so many on council. We need to work with the unions, not be beholden to the unions. We need to understand that what is good for one neighborhood can translate to benefits for another.”
Moody said after he is elected he wants to sit down with council members and learn their interests and to make sure they have the benefits of all of Toledo in their hearts.
The mayor’s office will have a plan under Moody, he said. In particular, he is concerned about the city’s bond rating. If the city doesn’t get its act together, the city’s bond rates could fall and cost the city a tremendous amount of money.
Moody said he honestly believes the mayor’s office knew, and city council should have known, that the city was going to be another $8 million in hole.
“I am a straight shooter. There is no real fluff. I am always courteous, but why say anything other than the way it is? … I think that in running the mayor’s office, I will be forthcoming; good news or bad news, you will know where we stand.
“I am not a politician,” Moody said. “I am not looking for a career shift. I’ve been perfectly happy being a businessman, but I am at a point in my life where I could provide public service without jeopardizing the well-being of my family.”