Konop moving to D.C. after commissioner term endsWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop campaigned on the platform of transformative change for the county. As his term ends and he prepares to move to Washington, D.C., Konop said he wasn’t able to accomplish that goal, but he did propose and enact a number of initiatives to help improve the county.
“There’s this saying, ‘You campaign in poetry and govern in prose,’ I think that’s a good way to bridge the divide on what I campaigned on and what actually was happening,” he said. “To get something that I campaigned upon enacted gets ugly … I certainly did not come out of it unscathed. I thought I was doing the best for the community and it’s what I campaigned on.”
During the past four years, the 34-year-old Democrat said he has tried to create transformative change in Northwest Ohio. People are often resistant to change and that was one of the many problems Konop faced when proposing new ideas, he said.
One resolution Konop proposed was a government-funded scholarship program to increase the number of county residents with college degrees.
“More and more it’s all about how trained and educated your workforce is. That’s the No.1 factor in economic development,” Konop said.
The scholarship would have created no new taxes and have been funded by privatizing EMS services, implementing four-day workweeks and adjusting thermostats in county buildings. After six months of research, Konop’s resolution was shot down 2-to-1.
More recently, Konop proposed the idea of reforming county government. Konop met and spoke with area business leaders about the proposed county executive form of government.
Ultimately, Konop didn’t have sufficient funding to collect signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
Konop is often outvoted by his fellow commissioners, Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak.
Konop said he didn’t expect everything he proposed to pass, but the continual no votes was “very disheartening.” Konop’s frustration with being outvoted 2-to-1 on every major initiative was eventually what led to him running for the mayor of Toledo, he said.
“It’s like hitting your head against the wall every day,” Konop said. “I thought I’d be in a better position to do things for the community as a one-person executive versus a three-person executive.”
During his campaign, Konop made national news when a YouTube video from one of his press conferences went viral. The video featured Konop being continually heckled by a man sitting on his front porch.
Konop later participated in a video for MonkeY DomE that spoofed the heckler incident.
“It obviously distracted people from whatever message I was trying to get across in the campaign. I thought it was kind of funny and I can see the humor in it. It’s not really relevant to anything,” he said. “From a political standpoint it probably wasn’t helpful. I think the knock on me is that I’m young and inexperienced and that kind of goofy scenario we had going between me and the heckler reinforced that stereotype to the community — he’s too inexperienced or not polished enough.”
Konop finished fifth in the primary election out of six candidates.
Konop has passed several resolutions during his time as commissioner that he said have contributed positively to the community.
Konop proposed 911 Cell Phones for Seniors, which has provided more than 2,000 free cell phones for seniors to make emergency calls. He helped end the practice of no-bid contracts and halt all non-essential travel by county employees.
Additionally, Konop proposed accountability in all board appointments, requiring the disclosure by board applicants and their immediate family of any contributions or business dealings with the commissioners or agency they’re seeking appointment. Konop also passed a resolution requiring the board of elections to post campaign finance reports online.
“I think these are positive steps forward to a more open and ethical government,” Konop said. “Is it transformative? Probably not.”
Konop is also proud of the work he did to save Children’s Wonderland last winter and the progress that has been made within the county dog warden’s department.
Konop said it’s been a “tremendous honor” to serve the county and he will continue to serve the county as commissioner until his last day in office.
Konop participated in his last commissioners’ meeting Dec. 14, as the final meeting of the year was cancelled by a 2-to-1 vote.
Konop said he was “surprised” by his fellow commissioners’ decision to cancel the meeting and was upset that he wouldn’t be able to honor volunteers who worked on the Dog Warden Advisory Committee. Konop said it is also unfortunate because at that meeting he was planning to propose placing laid-off sheriff’s officers in Toledo Public Schools to replace the Toledo Police Department officers who were removed due to budget cuts.
Both Gerken and Skeldon Wozniak were contacted for comment, but neither responded before publication.
Following his term, Konop will take a break before heading to Washington, D.C., where he plans to work as a public servant on the federal level. Konop said the position wouldn’t be an elected one, but declined to comment further on his plans.
“I can probably do more good in many ways from Washington, D.C., for Toledo,” he said.
Konop previously worked in Washington at Fulbright & Jaworski, one of the largest law firms in the country.
Carol Contrada will replace Konop on Jan. 1, barring court action on the Contest for Election filed by George Sarantou changing the electoral outcome.