Election 2012: Witzler challenges Treasurer KapszukiewiczWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Lucas County voters will decide Nov. 6 whether Democrat Wade Kapszukiewicz will return to the treasurer’s office for a third term or if Norm Witzler, a Republican who previously served on Waterville City Council, will replace him.
Kapszukiewicz said he’s proud of his record as a treasurer who looks beyond balancing the books and tries to use the resources of the office to move Lucas County forward.
Witzler said he’d like to change a few things about the way the office operates and also described himself as a responsive leader who, while on City Council, made a point of answering every letter and phone call he received.
Kapszukiewicz won his first election at 23, when he was elected to the board of the Lucas County Educational Service Center, now called the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. He was elected to Toledo City Council in 1999, then re-elected in 2001 and 2003.
He attributes his desire to seek public office to the Rev. Tim O’Brien, a professor he met while pursuing his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee.
“He came from the social justice wing of the Catholic church,” Kapszukiewicz said of O’Brien, whom he called the most important influence on his professional life.
Kapszukiewicz has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.
When he decided to run for treasurer in 2004, Kapszukiewicz said, “I was attracted to the ability to use the treasurer’s office to help move the county forward.
Kapszukiewicz said he tries to be more than just a “bean counter.”
“Don’t worry, rest assured, all the beans are counted,” he said, “But at the end of the day, if that’s all I did I’d be doing the community a disservice.”
He cited his office’s decision to purchase $18 million in bonds to help finance the Huntington Center and the creation of a $5 million loan program for small businesses that he said has allowed 38 employers to create or retain 375 jobs. Any income that may have been lost by lending that money to businesses at low interest, instead of keeping it in the county’s stock portfolio, is more than made up by the positive economic benefit from those businesses’ operations, he said,
Kapszukiewicz said he sees those decisions as sound financial investments, but, “more than that, I see them as investments in the quality of life for Lucas County citizens.”
The incumbent said he’s most proud of his work with a coalition of other county treasurers to pass legislation establishing a funding stream for the Lucas County Land Bank and speeding up the process by which the Land Bank acquires vacant tax-foreclosed properties. Close to 700 properties have been acquired by the Land Bank with the goal of either rehabilitating or demolishing them to stop the erosion of property values in Toledo, he said.
A lifetime resident of Lucas County, Witzler said that although he’s not the incumbent, he still brings plenty of financial acumen to the race, gathered through formal education and through his experience over the years.
Witzler went to Bowling Green State University for two years to study accounting, then spent another semester at the University of Toledo before deciding to begin a building trades apprenticeship instead.
He was employed as a plumber from 1968-84 and later worked for Chrysler. For the past five years, he has worked at a Home Depot store in Toledo.
Witzler served three four-year terms on the Waterville City Council, being elected in 1992, 1996 and 2000. He said he wanted to be a voice for people in Waterville, and made a point of responding when people contacted him with concerns.
“I returned every phone call and every letter that I ever received,” he said. “I can’t say that for the rest of the Council when I was involved, or the mayor.”
His financial experience includes serving as the treasurer for Family House, a families-only homeless shelter in Toledo.
Witzler said he would like to be more aggressive about delinquent tax collections.
Kapszukiewicz contested the idea that he’s not aggressive enough, saying he’s been “extraordinarily tough on people who are trying to game the system and avoid paying taxes.” He cited his introduction of tax lien sales in 2006.
Witzler also said he would like to revisit some of the structures the Land Bank plans to tear down with an eye toward rehabilitating them instead. Although rehabilitation would cost more, he said, it could also get properties back on the tax rolls sooner and with higher values.
He said his decision to run also came from not wanting the treasurer’s office to be “another unchallenged seat in Lucas County.”