Election 2012: Gerken running against former co-worker MarshallWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Republican John Marshall is vying with former Jeep co-worker Gerken for his Lucas County Commissioner’s seat Nov. 6. Gerken, a Democrat, is president of the Board of Commissioners. He has been on the board since 2005 and was on City Council for eight years, beginning in 1996.
“I’m not afraid to take on the big issues on City Council or on County Commissioners. Lucas County’s a great place, but it can only get better,” he said.
Gerken, a University of Toledo graduate, worked for Jeep/DaimlerChrysler for 30 years before retiring. He was Marshall’s union steward around 1985, when Marshall worked at the plant for a short stint.
Marshall said he is running because of the “cronyism, the unfairness, sometimes vindictiveness in the office.”
Regional cooperation is at an all-time high, Gerken said, claiming it as one of his major accomplishments and also citing the establishment of the Huntington Center.
If re-elected, Gerken said, “I hope to continue to help improve the job market,” adding that he speaks to employers “constantly” about their needs.
He said the biggest disappointment during his tenure has been, “The fact that we have been so trained on balancing our budget that we haven’t been able to give our workers a raise in six years now. I wish we could be a little more generous and help out our strong workforce.”
“We might see that change as we’re looking at some casino revenue come in finally,” he added.
The commissioner also said that the commissioners need to evaluate the levy system. This year, there are seven levies on the Lucas County ballot.
“It’s time for the commissioners to have this conversation about if there isn’t a better way to do it,” he said. “This ballot is very levy-heavy and for the first time, there will be real winners and losers when there shouldn’t be.”
One possibility is an umbrella levy or combining the “back of the house operations” like the human resources and administration of different agencies, Gerken said, adding that the board still needs to evaluate ideas.
Marshall is a U.S. Air Force veteran who has owned several small businesses, including Marshall Windows & Door. The three-time cancer survivor said he was inspired to run after some personal run-ins with Gerken.
“This is not like I have a vendetta against Pete, I don’t,” Marshall said.
After being told he needed a sanitary sewer in his house during his second bout with cancer, Marshall asked the health department and other officials if he could put the $14,500 payment on his taxes. The group, which, according to Marshall included Gerken, said no.
Gerken said he wasn’t sure of the incident Marshall was referring to.
Marshall, who worked his way up to end-of-the-line supervisor at Jeep, said he was also turned off by Gerken’s attitude at the plant.
“All this time, my steward Pete Gerken is telling me, ‘You can’t work so hard. You’re making everybody else look bad,’” Marshall said.
Gerken said in response, “He can’t verify that and I certainly have no recollection of that.”
He added that during a round of layoffs Gerken was “saving his own butt” while Marshall had to let workers know they were being let go.
“When I saw what Pete did to me, what he did to those people at Jeep, I started looking around and he carried those things to his political life,” Marshall said.
Gerken said he is proud of his record at Jeep and added that he, too, had been laid off by the car company before.
“Mr. Marshall is in some desperate attempt to recreate history,” he said.
If terms of potential plans for office, Marshall said, “Just like Mitt Romney, my No. 1 goal is jobs.”
Area manufacturers stand to profit from Marcellus shale, located 90 minutes east, Marshall said.
“We are the center geographically of what could be the largest logistical center in the United States,” he said.
Marshall said he is also working to bring a major airline to Toledo, but declined to reveal which one. He has been in contact with the airline, but not its CEO.
“I don’t have a high enough pay grade to really be talking to those people yet. If I was commissioner, I’m sure I could fly out there and get an appointment,” he said.