Council hopeful Spang has business, artistic vision for cityWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | firstname.lastname@example.org
During her years as a fine arts student at Bowling Green State University, Sandy Spang began what she called “a lifelong love affair.”
The object of her affection?
Spang, who is running for Toledo City Council, said its focus on glass is one of her favorite things about the city she hopes to represent.
“I love that Toledo is the site for the rebirth of the art glass movement,” she said, speaking of a revival that began on the grounds of the Toledo Museum of Art.
“We also have the legacy of being a site for factory glass through Libbey [Glass],” she added.
You could say that Spang, a jewelry designer-turned-real estate investor-turned-coffee shop owner, is sort of like Toledo glass.
“I have a business sense, but I also have a sense of the arts and aesthetics,” she said.
Take, for example, Spang’s business card. Her logo, featured of the back of the card, includes a skyline of the city surrounded by shapes representing what Spang believes the city needs to thrive: business and manufacturing, economic sustainability, infrastructure, human capital, natural resources. As she matched the business principles to the corresponding shapes traced in bright green ink, she commented on the logo’s aesthetics.
Currently, Spang isn’t in the studio blowing glass or designing logos. She splits her time between Plate 21, the South Toledo coffeehouse she opened with her husband, and managing the real estate properties the couple owns.
Spang said she has felt the itch to run for office for some time. However, the mother of three said the timing hasn’t been right until now.
“I was encouraged to run when the District 2 position was open several years ago, but I didn’t feel it was the right time for my family,” Spang said. “Now I have the energy to give back to my city, and I feel my life experiences have prepared me.”
Although she may not have experience as an elected official, Spang said her experience as a small-business owner gives her an edge in the crowded field of 17 candidates.
“I love hearing everybody talk about [small business]. But to have firsthand experience is important, to be that person that other small-business owners know they can call if they’re having a frustrating experience with the city government,” Spang said. “Something that I’ve learned in business is the importance of customer service. And we need to make that a priority. That’s the face of the city to the customer, and people often have frustrating experiences.”
Also part of Spang’s plan for Toledo is integrating some aspects of “smart cities.” The concept, Spang says, involves, “taking advantage of technology, but also taking advantage of your human capital.”
To make Toledo a “smart city,” Spang hopes to add community amenities like a bike network or a dog park that will attract young professionals.
“These are the types of things that are going to attract this creative class, and that’s really important in today’s and the future’s economy,” Spang said. “It also has the tremendous benefit of making life better for the people that are already here.”
Spang also hopes that the city will look to the future when deciding on changes to existing city functions.
“One of the most basic missions of local government is to maintain the infrastructure,” Spang said. “It has to be done with long-range planning. We cannot continue to put good money after bad into projects. We have to take the long view. If we have to go back and sort of undo some decisions of the past, so be it.”
She said she hopes that current Council members would be open to the aspects of “smart cities” that would cost the city more money.
“And the first thing people are going to say is, ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ And that’s where you’ve got to have commitment to a goal, and a long-term improvement,” she said. “It’s really the idea of being smart about using our resources and embracing new ideas in technology, in the context of long-term planning. In their personal lives, people are already utilizing technology. And I think that people are going to recognize the value in the public sector as well.”
Wanting the same things
Spang, who is running for council as an independent, was a registered Republican until 2010. However, she doesn’t want to be labeled by voters.
“But if you want to participate in the primary process during a presidential election, you have to declare a party. And voting is very important to me,” Spang said. “I think that many of the things that make us a Republican or a Democrat at the federal or state level are not as relevant at the city level. At the local level, we all want the same things. We want a well-run city. We want infrastructure that runs like butter. We want a clean, efficient water system. We want vibrant local businesses. We want an arts scene. The things we want at the local level cut across party lines.”
As far as her campaign goes, Spang said she has relied on a grassroots effort to raise money.
“Especially until the primary, any campaign, especially for a new candidate without party affiliation, is going to be a grassroots effort,” she said. “We’ve relied on very small donations.”
Support from Ludeman
She said she is counting on support from Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Spang and nominated her for the seat on Council left vacant by Phil Copeland when he became Lucas County Recorder.
“I think it’ll be refreshing,” Ludeman said of Spang’s potential election. “She would bring that enthusiasm and business perspective. She’s a family person, and I like the family values part of what she stands for.”
While Ludeman sees Spang as a family person, the people who have bought jewelry from her saw her as a designer, and her customers at Plate 21 see her as an entrepreneur, Spang said she sees herself on council as a mediator.
“I’m going to do everything I can do to build consensus,” Spang said. “I think I can be that pivot point that catalyst in the center so we can actually get decisions made. That’s how I really see myself.”