Candidates roll toward primaryWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | email@example.com
It’s almost like mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski never stopped running for election after narrowly losing the primary in 2005.
The Democrat was the first of five candidates to reveal his intentions for the 2009 race, making the announcement from his kitchen table in December.
“I have lived here all of my life and I think the city needs help,” Wilkowski told Toledo Free Press in a Feb. 15 article. “There are lots of people who are willing to pitch in and give that help if you have the right leadership to bring people together.”
Wilkowski works as an attorney for Vassar, Dills, Dawson & Bonfiglo, and served as city law director from 1990 to 1994, serving as acting city manager at the end of 1993. He was also Lucas County commissioner from 1988 to 1990, leaving office to take the position of city law director. He served as the chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party from 1994 to 1997.
Wilkowski brings with him extensive experience in local government law, land use and litigation. He has served as the chief legal officer for the City of Rossford and the Village of Waterville.
“What I offer to Toledo is the right kind of change,” he said. “We have had a leadership style that has been combative and confrontational, unable to work with our neighbors.”
Wilkowski founded and led the group, “Toledoans for Obama.”
“It was a wonderful campaign,” he said. “I think [Obama] is trying to continue to do that and reach out to people. That is a leadership style that is close to my heart.”
When Republican Jim Moody began talking about becoming mayor, his sole competition was Wilkowski. The first-time politician wasn’t accustomed to campaigning, but adjusted quickly as the real estate agent relied on his ability to talk with, not at people.
“I have been sitting at the kitchen tables of both line workers, as well as executives of Fortune 500 companies,” Moody said in an article published March 15 in TFP. “When you sit at someone’s kitchen table, you get a different discourse and discussion than if it was in a corporate setting.”
Moody grew up in the rural outskirts of Canton, and moved to Toledo at age 24 to become the general manager of Telex Communications, which owned the Cincinnati Business Journal and Toledo Business Journal.
Moody would found Flex Realty, partner in HomeFinder Magazine, build R.G. Shriner Realty, expand Shriner Real Estate School and form a property management firm.
“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.”
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.
“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 alone 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.”
Former fire chief Mike Bell entered the race after much speculation.
When he joined, he was the only independent, despite his roots as a Democrat.
“I believe that people in this community don’t really care what you are as long as you are prepared to work for them,” Bell said in a TFP article published March 29.
“We are at a crossroads,” he said. “We have the ability right at this time to decide which way we are going to go. When people ask me why I would want to be mayor, I say, ‘What better time to want to be mayor when things seem their darkest?’ ”
He gave up his state marshal position to return to the city and campaign full time.
“The reason I want to come back isn’t about me,” Bell said. “It is about the city. It is about turning it around. It is about my family, my parents who live in the North End. Everything I have learned, I have learned from the City of Toledo, so I think I have some valuable skills that I can give back that will help change the look of the city and to get people to work together toward a common cause.”
Deciding to run as an independent meant leaving behind his strong allegiance to the Democrat Party. Bell said political parties play a part of history, but people are the ones who get things done.
“I have voted on the person, based on what I thought they could do. You got to trust that when you give your vote that the person is going to come through for you,” he said.
Bell is focusing on issues he believes are crucial to the future of Toledo. Balancing the city budget; saving and creating jobs; preserving home values and stabilizing neighborhoods; and protecting people’s safety.
Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop came into the race wearing his game face. At 33 years old, the Democrat is the youngest of the candidates and would be the second-youngest mayor in Toledo’s history if elected.
“I have just tried to represent people outside of Government Center,” Konop said in an article published May 31 in TFP. “Like I said, there is this clique — connected folks, the good old boys network, who have their voices heard very clearly and they give a lot of campaign contributions and they get seats on commissions and they get no-bid contracts. They are accounted for; I don’t represent them. I have fought against them.”
Konop said he is running for mayor because the economic opportunity that was there for his grandparents and his parents is gone. Many people are to blame, and there’s still no sense of urgency, he said.
“I have obviously thought about it long and hard,” Konop said. “For me, it is in many ways a personal reason. This community has been very good to me and to my family.”
When Konop was campaigning for commissioner he made a promise to fulfill his four-year term, and he will have served three of four years if elected mayor.
“I am the best candidate to take our community in a new direction,” Konop said. “That was my calculus in evaluating my pledge. It was an equation. What is in the best interest of the community?”
Konop recently issued a public apology when he appeared in a YouTube video where the American flag accidentally touched the ground. But he doesn’t think the incident will hurt his chances of winning.
“It is a campaign that I will win,” he said in the May 31 article. “The overall sentiment is that people are really ready for a serious, new direction and fresh start for Toledo.”
D. Michael Collins
Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins was the last candidate to enter the mayoral race.
“Six months ago, this was not a consideration,” Collins said in an article published Aug. 16 in TFP. “Three months ago, it really wasn’t much of a consideration, although the frustration levels were getting greater and greater because of what was going on in municipal government.”
Collins said his experience makes him an ideal candidate for mayor.
Not only did he serve as a police officer for 27 years, but for 10 of those years, he was president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, and he also served as the lead negotiator for five collective bargaining agreements.
His latest experience as a councilman has showed him just how badly change is needed.
“I have had a front-row seat in municipal government for 18 months,” he said. “I have watched government in action. I have witnessed the inability of the mayor’s office to work with the city council.”
Collins said the late start in the race allowed him the opportunity to listen to the other four candidates.
“I think each of them are very quality people who bring to the table specific positives to the city of Toledo. I think this is probably the first time Toledo has had a field of candidates that bring this quality for consideration.”
If elected, Collins wants to personally meet every elected mayor and township trustee in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. For Collins, a victory in Perrysburg is a victory for Northwest Ohio.
“Toledo has never demonstrated the ability to be truthful and honest in any dealings with any other governmental agency,” he said. “Toledo wants to control everything. My experience has been that that doesn’t work.”