Mayor Candidate Profile: Michael KonwinskiWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Retiree Michael Konwinski spent time working as a repairman for the city’s water department and later worked as an accountant for the city. But Konwinski isn’t using his retirement to relax. He’s busy campaigning to become Toledo’s next mayor.
One of seven mayoral hopefuls, Konwinski is running a self-funded campaign.
The Rogers High School and University of Toledo graduate said his decision mainly came out of his “frustration” with the city.
“When I was working in utilities, I saw some things that frustrated me. But when I got into finance, you’d see that people would get placed into positions that they weren’t qualified for,” Konwinski said. “There was a hope that when Mayor Bell came in, he would reform that. I didn’t see that.”
So, Konwinski decided to take matters into his own hands and launched his own bid for mayor.
“I didn’t see that any of the other potential candidates would be any different,” he said.
Konwinski said he “doesn’t like politics” and didn’t want to run for any other position.
As a former accountant, Konwinski said his plan to revitalize the city is focused on keeping costs down.
“The focus of my campaign is to give people what they’re paying for,” Konwinski said. “I want to give them the best product at the lowest possible price. We should be concentrating on things that taxpayers pay for, like fire and police protection and water, and not chasing our tail on other stuff.”
Konwinski said he would like to end taxpayer funding of Imagination Station and turn the site into a retail center, reminiscent of the Portside Festival Marketplace. He also said that he disagreed with the city’s decision to implement a smoking ban, saying that the city’s decision resulted in the shuttering of small businesses.
Konwinski said another flub the city made was missing out on locating the Bass Pro Shops store in the Marina District. He said the city’s restrictions on gun sales prevented economic development in the area.
“That could have been a magnet store for the East Side, but we screwed that up,” Konwinski said. “We do a lot of things that tell businesses how to run their place. The processes for business are longer than they should be, and inspectors are not very responsive. I just want to get government out of the way.”
Konwinski said he knows his message is a tough sell, and that he hasn’t gotten the publicity most of the other candidates have gotten.
His self-funded campaign has proved a challenge.
“My biggest competition is that I have no money,” Konwinski said. “I know it’s a long haul and an uphill fight, but I’m hoping my message resonates more than the standard political stuff.”
He’s hoping that resonance reaches his constituency, who he calls “the pissed-off taxpayer.”
“Nobody’s representing them,” Konwinski said.
Konwinski isn’t just in good company with his disgruntled taxpayer base. He also feels a sense of solidarity with fellow mayoral candidate and neighborhood development specialist Alan Cox. In fact, the two both ran for the same position in the union that Cox is now president of.
“Alan and I are fighting the same battle,” Konwinski said. “We’re both city employees, and we see the problems. It’s not coincidental that we’re both fighting the same thing because we see the same thing. The politicians are behind the lines. They don’t see that. We’re in the trenches.”
Cox said that Konwinski “has an excellent sense of finances,” but that the two differ on their approaches to leadership.
“He does have a desire to see the right things done,” Cox said of Konwinski. “I know I could work very well with him. I could be almost as happy with having him elected.”
Still, Cox said he has “concern[s] about what [Konwinski’s] full grasp of the management and leadership aspects would be.”
Lucas County Auditor and fellow mayoral candidate Anita Lopez has also worked alongside Konwinski, when she worked in the city’s Purchasing, Affirmative Action and Compliance office.
“He’s fairly friendly,” Lopez said of Konwinski. “I think he obviously has knowledge of the city operations, but again I think that one of the biggest problems in the City of Toledo is the bottleneck, and that’s not allowing the next generation to take over. Those individuals who have been in charge, like Mike Collins, Mike Bell, Mike Konwinski, all of the individuals at the city who are running for mayor, they’ve had their day in leadership, and they have not been able to turn the City of Toledo around. So I think they need to move on and let a new person come in.”
In addition to Cox and Lopez, Konwinski is challenging incumbent Mayor Mike Bell, City Councilmen Joe McNamara and D. Michael Collins and evangelist Opal Covey in the Sept. 10 primary.
And despite the heavy competition, Konwinski said he’s feeling brave going into the election.
“I’m not scared of losing. I’m not in it promising people stuff I can’t deliver,” he said.