Newsmakers 2010: Career politician: Carol ContradaWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
It bothers Carol Contrada when the term “career politician” is used as a derogatory label.
“It is a career — an honorable one,” said Contrada, as she wraps up a seven-year term as a Sylvania Township trustee and prepares to take office as a Lucas County commissioner Jan. 1.
Contrada said she doesn’t believe she was cheated out of the election-night pomp she missed when her opponent, George Sarantou, was declared the winner, only to have a recount including provisional ballots flip the results a month later.
“The election-night excitement was there regardless of the outcome,” Contrada said. “I was disappointed in the outcome for sure, but I didn’t feel that I was missing any kind of party. And I had work to do. I had a township trustee meeting the next day and I was immediately turning to the job I hold.”
Contrada, who operates the Sylvania law firm Contrada and Associates with her husband, Charles, declined to comment on the pending Contest of Election Sarantou filed after the recount, but said she respects the right of the courts to make a ruling. She said the unusual and unexpected turn of events is part of the stress of being a public official and that, being an attorney, she has learned to live with a certain level of uncertainty.
Contrada said townships are the form of government closest to the people.
“It is where the rubber meets the road,” Contrada said. “You have direct and frequent interaction with the citizens of your community and that’s something that I embrace.”
Doing more with less is a mentality Contrada said she honed as a trustee.
“The idea of budget work sends chills I think through some people’s hearts, but I know how to do it and there are ways to do it and actually improve service,” Contrada said.
Of accomplishments the past year, Contrada said she is most proud of the opening of the first of three planned fire stations, all of which will use alternative energy.
Her low points were times she wished she had communicated the board’s thought process better to the public, such as the decision to discuss a controversial mandatory recycling and refuse program, which was later rejected.
It’s difficult to explain complex ideas in a world of sound bites, Contrada said.
“As a lawyer, I think and talk in paragraphs and sometimes in multiple pages and I need to work on that,” Contrada said.
Contrada said the most frustrating thing people say to her as an elected official is “How could you even consider such a thing?”
“That drives me crazy. Because I think it’s our duty to consider everything,” Contrada said. “Consider does not mean vote. It means gathering data. I don’t think that I personally, or that the three members of the board, adequately explained to the public, all we’re doing is looking at it.”
Contrada said the extent of budget cuts area public school systems are facing is “disturbing” and was her biggest disappointment of 2010.
Fellow Sylvania Township Trustee John Jennewine said in an e-mail that Contrada was always professional, never losing her cool even while working with two new trustees with wide-ranging opinions.
“Carol was able to keep the meetings on point and moving forward. She was well-prepared and did her homework,” Jennewine said. “One of the most impressive qualities about her is her communication skills. She responds to every resident who has a problem or question in a very timely manner.”
Trustee Kevin Haddad said that, while he and Contrada had their differences, they “always came up talking” and that Contrada was encouraging as he and Jennewine learned the ropes.
Contrada, who expects to make a seamless transition to commissioner, said she hopes people in Sylvania Township will remember her as a trustee who delivered essential services at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer in economic times both good and bad.
Looking back on the year, Contrada said no political victory has been as special as time spent with her family.
“I truly enjoy public service and I had a lot of great moments as a township trustee, but I have to say, my greatest moments have been private moments with my family,” Contrada said. “I treasure them.”