The race for mayorWritten by Maggie Thurber | Toledo Free Press Writer | email@example.com
When it comes to elections and candidates, my preference is to analyze the position sought, look at the requirements of the office, determine the skills I believe are necessary to do a good job in that office and then see which of the declared candidates possess those skills.
I must admit, it’s easier to do for non-legislative positions, because offices like city council, house representative or senator rely more upon political philosophy and approach to issue than on specific tasks like preparing a budget or hiring and firing staff.
The office of mayor, as an administrative office, is relatively easy to define. And most people in Toledo will probably have a list of characteristics or traits they don’t want to see, in light of the dominance in that position by only two individuals. But it is Section V of the Toledo City Charter that details the office of mayor, including the executive and administrative powers, the general powers and duties, and such details as salary, oaths and interests in contracts.
The mayor is the Chief Executive and Administrative Officer of the city, has the ability to make appointments (some requiring the confirmation of council), serves as the official head of the city for the purpose of serving civil process (meaning he gets named in lawsuits against the city), supervises the affairs of the city, ensures the enforcement of city council ordinances (laws), and prepares the budget.
In order to effectively perform these functions, someone seeking this position should have experience with, at least, the following:
- Hiring, firing, discipline, personnel issues and employment law
- Labor relations, contract negotiation, grievances
- Running an organization – overseeing daily operations, dealing with challenges, long-term and strategic planning
- Budgeting – demonstrated ability to plan and implement a large budget as well as oversee changes and modifications to increases/decreases in it
- Technology and how it can be used (or not) to enhance the organization
- Public relations – dealing with constituents, public speaking, media
- Leadership, including being the ultimate decision-maker
- Making a payroll or a profit – understanding the need to meet obligations
- Good communications – demonstrated ability to work well with diverse groups and interests
There are numerous individuals who’ve pulled petitions for mayor, but the three major declared candidates (in order of their announcements) are Democrat Keith Wilkowski, Republican Jim Moody and Democrat-running-as-Independent Michael Bell. Incumbent Democrat Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has not yet announced his intentions. Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop (Democrat) is “exploring” a run and Republican Councilman George Sarantou is often suggested as a possible contender.
Focusing only on the declared candidates, all three seem to possess some of the skills for the position, but all have some issues that need to be addressed.
All have budgeting experience, though Wilkowski was one of three responsible for the county’s budget when he was commissioner. All have personnel experience, though I do not believe Moody has any experience with labor negotiations, contracts or grievances. All have experience running an organization, but Bell’s experience with the Fire Department and State Fire Marshal are the closest comparison to the city’s structure.
Good communication and public relations skills are where there are significant differences.
Wilkowski, a prior elected official, sounds like a politician. He’s good at saying a lot of words but sometimes, there’s not much substance. He’s good with catch phrases, but short on content. This doesn’t mean he won’t add substance as the campaign goes on, but politicians tend to fall into a routine that is hard to break. Additionally, despite President Barack Obama’s votes from Toledo, Wilkowski’s prominent and on-going role supporting Obama’s campaign-now presidential- policies may prove problematic for a number of Toledo voters.
Moody’s residency and his statements attempting to explain why he is living in Toledo but his family is not remain an issue for his opponents to exploit – and they will. His disastrous handling of that criticism calls into question his ability to handle other difficult topics as the campaign goes on. And his statement on Bell’s entry to the race offered a criticism that he, himself, was already guilty of.
Bell has, perhaps, the best reputation when it comes to communication and p.r. skills, but he’s never been in the position of speaking publicly for himself rather than on behalf of his boss. He has the gravitas to run without a party endorsement, which may be a direct advantage this year.
A campaign reveals much about a person and will give voters an opportunity to compare each of these candidates to the other. We’re fortunate to have such options for 2009
Maggie Thurber blogs at http://thurbersthoughts.blogspot.com/.