Council appointee Ramsey ready for challengeWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
The morning after he was appointed to Toledo City Council, Scott Ramsey was out of the limelight and his seldom-worn suit and back to a more familiar milieu — wearing a well-worn hoodie and beanie, surrounded by boats and half-finished projects in the UpTown restoration shop he owns with his two younger brothers.
Ramsey, 39, of Ramsey Brothers Restorations, is excited for the opportunities his new role brings, but is clearly not yet completely comfortable with the attention. Hearing his name on a local talk radio program playing at the shop, he seemed embarrassed and quickly turned it down.
The political independent was appointed March 3 to fill the District 4 Toledo City Council seat vacated by Democrat Paula Hicks-Hudson, who became mayor Feb. 6 upon the death of Mayor D. Michael Collins.
Ramsey garnered the six-vote majority on Council’s first vote, with support from Democrats Steve Steel, Matt Cherry and Mike Craig, Republicans Rob Ludeman and Tom Waniewski and independent Sandy Spang.
“I’ve never been involved with either party,” Ramsey said. “I’ve generally voted for whomever I thought would do the job well.”
Ramsey will hold the seat until at least May 5, when a special election will fill the seat for the reminder of the year. There will be a primary in September and general election in November for new four-year terms for all six district seats.
Also at the meeting, Steel was voted in as Council president. Afterward he announced he would step down as chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party in order to avoid the “appearance of partisanship.”
“I’m confident I can separate the political from the public side but I want to make sure that doesn’t become the story,” he said later. “Council shouldn’t be a story; the work that we do and the accomplishments we have should be the story.
“This is a time we need someone experienced in leadership. We have to have still waters right now.”
For District 4, independent Theresa Gabriel voted for University of Toledo professor emeritus Stephen Goldman, Tyrone Riley and Lindsay Webb voted for business owner and part-time UT professor David Johnson, Jack Ford voted for Jewell Lightner, formerly of ProMedica, and Larry Sykes voted for former Toledo Municipal Court baliff Yvonne Harper, even though Harper has withdrawn herself from nomination.
Also vying for the vacant seat were Alfonso Narvaez, who ran for the District 4 seat in 2011 and an at-large Council seat in 2013; 1370 WSPD host Scott Sands; Khali Maddox-Abdegeo; and small-business owner Terry Shankland.
Ramsey will face a fight for the seat if he chooses to run. Harper, a Democrat, and Narvaez, a Republican, were endorsed for the open seat by their respective parties and both said they plan to run in May. During her remarks to Council before the vote, Harper asked for her name to be withdrawn, saying she would get on Council “the old-fashioned way.”
“It will be a very steep uphill battle even to be able to retain this seat in May,” Craig said. “But in the meantime, I think he will be a stabilizing force on Council.”
Rather than deter him, Ramsey said challenges motivate him.
“When people say, ‘You can’t make that part,’ it makes me want to,” he said. “When people say something can’t be done, that’s very often not the case. When someone says, “Well, that’s how it’s always been done,’ that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.”
Ramsey grew up in Springfield Township and graduated from Springfield High School. He started as an engineering major at the University of Toledo before switching to a specialty degree called entrepreneurship, family and small business. However, UT eliminated the degree before he graduated, so he ended up in business management.
Ramsey and his wife Melissa have lived in the Historic Old West End since 2001. They have two children, Elliott, 13, and Jenna, 10.
Their home on Collingwood Avenue was built in 1912 by William Jackson, later known as Toledo’s “builder mayor,” responsible for many Toledo projects, including the Anthony Wayne Bridge aka the High-Level Bridge.
Ramsey’s love of boats started in fifth grade, when his dad received a 1960 Lyman Islander from his brother.
“We tore it apart and put it together and tore it apart and put it together,” he said. “My wife and I used that boat to boat out to an island to get engaged.”
The family business, at 329 20th St., started in 2005 and offers restoration, storage and maintenance of classic boats. Shortly after, the brothers acquired Dart Boat Company, a Toledo manufacturer of mahogany speedboats and components. The hand-built boats, comprised mainly of locally built parts, take an average of two to three months to build.
“It’s a historic Toledo company we have kind of reinvigorated with modern technology,” Ramsey said.
Their father, Jim Ramsey, is retired and also works at the shop.
The family also organizes the annual Toledo Antique & Classic Boat Show.
Ramsey is soft-spoken but passionate, prone to reading up on subjects that interest him, his father said.
“He’s not afraid. He doesn’t play politics,” Jim said. “What you see is what you get and he tells it like it is. He’s not going to offend people, but he’s going to be very diplomatic, very tactful. He does a lot of reading. If he wanted to learn something when he was growing up, and he still does, he gets a book out and reads. His grandfather and his great-grandfather did the same thing.”
Family and faith is important to Ramsey. He attends CedarCreek Church, but said he also supports a number of other local ministries operated by friends, including Western Avenue Ministries and Toledo Restoration Church.
Ramsey is passionate about neighborhoods, said Judy Stone, a real estate agent with The Danberry Co. who sold Ramsey his home as well as a couple other near-Old West End homes he’s fixing up to sell and serves with him on the Old West End Preservation Committee.
“He’s very humble about his accomplishments,” Stone said. “His restoration work is just incredible. He takes on that type of perfection in anything he does, and that’s really the way he will approach things. He will really look at the total picture, dissect it and put it back together. That’s his personality. It’s that meticulous detail to restoration where nothing is missed and that’s how I think he will approach being on Council.”
District 4 includes Downtown, the Warehouse District, UpTown, the Old West End and parts of north and central Toledo. Edna Brown, Michael Ashford and Hicks-Hudson were among the most recent Council members to hold the District 4 seat. All are Democrats and African-American.
“It’s a very diverse district,” Ramsey said. “But what people forget is it’s not just a district of residential properties, it’s a business district.
“Regardless of what my race is, my involvement with residential, the waterfront and the business side has given me a working knowledge of how different areas of the district work. I think that’s really what this district needs, regardless of any race. It needs someone who can advocate broad-spectrum across the district.
“I don’t proclaim I have all the answers but I really would like to focus on both business, neighborhoods and waterfront in our district.”
Spang said she thinks Ramsey will be a good fit.
“When District 4 was first mapped, there was virtually no one living in UpTown or the Warehouse District, so the district has really changed and the needs are very diverse,” Spang said.
“Scott is one of the young people who have made the choice to move into Toledo and he’s brought his business to District 4. He’s very involved in our waterfront, hosting the boat show, and he’s chosen to raise his family and renovate one of our historic homes in the Old West End, so I thought in Scott we had a candidate who could really serve the full district.”
Craig, who represents District 3, which encompasses East and South Toledo, has worked with Ramsey on the boat show. What really made a lasting impression on him though was Ramsey’s involvement with a garden project through Western Avenue Ministries years ago.
“That was pretty impressive,” Craig said. “Scott and his brother, even though they live in the Old West End, came to me in the Old South End about seven years ago. They had taken down a couple of vacant houses and made a community garden, because they thought the community needed that. They just took the initiative.
“They are involved in their community kind of in a quiet way. I think he’ll bring a good perspective to Council.”
Ramsey is also a landlord for several properties, all in District 4, which he said has made him aware of neighborhood safety issues.
“We have several properties on one block that have all witnessed break-ins within a short period of time, including many of our neighboring properties, so I think there is a crime issue that is deterring investment in the neighborhood,” he said. “And I think that’s what the [Lucas County] Land Bank is running into, why they end up accumulating more properties than they can get rid of in many instances. We have a lot of core city issues we need to deal with.”
Ramsey is interested in waterfront development, mixed-use urban development, revitalization of existing commercial properties and “general efficiency analysis coupled with strategic steps to improve city services on a department-by-department basis with the end goal being reduced costs and improved quality of life within our city,” he wrote in his letter of interest to the city for the position.
Like many others, he said he is encouraged by recent Downtown development, particularly ProMedica’s move Downtown.
“ProMedica is huge and I’m excited about that because they are on our waterfront,” he said. “[Promenade Park] is not a park that’s well-maintained right now, so I’m thrilled they are willing to take some ownership of that space. You can enjoy the waterfront and still have businesses right on the water.
“It’s something growing up that we’ve always heard about: revitalizing Downtown, revitalizing Downtown. I was never alive for a vital Downtown, to my knowledge, based on my age.”
He’s hoping small businesses get a boost from the ProMedica excitement.
“I think there is a momentum. The real question is how can we create more opportunities for small businesses in our Downtown area?
“One of the things I have noticed in our Downtown area is we have removed a lot of small storefront space and built big businesses that have then left Toledo or vacated to the suburbs. So you are left with large commercial structures with no small retail space or commercial space for smaller businesses. I don’t want to say I’m opposed to ever tearing down buildings, but I really think it’s important to maintain small commercial space that’s affordable for small businesses.”
He said he’s inspired by Chicago’s use of mixed-use space, where people often don’t realize they are walking past parking garages or apartment buildings because the street level contains retail shops.
“It’s important to maintain a walkable streetscape with things to go to and UpTown is starting to be that way,” Ramsey said.
He’s also impressed by Port Clinton’s use of its waterfront, such as condos with docks.
“We built a casino on the river and there’s no dock there,” Ramsey said. “I don’t like to gamble, but I would dock there and go wander around and eat.”
Anna Kolin, development director for the National Museum of the Great Lakes, works with Ramsey on the Antique & Classic Boat Show, held near the museum. Ramsey’s business has also done work at the museum, including exhibit installation and repair work, she said.
“I couldn’t say better things about him,” Kolin said. “He’s got his eye set on the community and work and bettering the community. I think he’s going to be a huge asset to Council.”