Pounds: Fording the futureWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | email@example.com
With Jack Ford’s death, Toledo has now lost three men who served as mayor in the past three months.
John McHugh, 84, who from 1990-93 served as the last mayor under the city manager form of government, died Jan. 30. D. Michael Collins, 70, died Feb. 6, five days after going into cardiac arrest while driving. Ford, 67, Toledo’s first black mayor, died March 21, at ProMedica Toledo Hospital after going into cardiac arrest at home in Toledo.
Ford had been in poor health for years, battling kidney disease and diabetes. But he remained an active voice in the community and local government, where he was currently serving as an at-large City Councilman.
Ford and Toledo Free Press didn’t always get along over the years, but we respect his decades of dedication to public service.
His friend John L. Edwards Sr., executive director of Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program Lucas County, described Ford to TFP as passionate, brilliant, hilarious and ethical.
“He was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known,” Edwards said. “[People] thought of him as this slow-moving, half-asleep guy. But beyond that outside persona, this guy was moving at light speed.”
A social worker by training and at heart, there’s no question Ford improved the lives of low-income citizens through the establishment of Toledo/Lucas County CareNet and his work with community organizations. He was also known as a passionate advocate of minorities, fighting for percentages of city contracts to be awarded to minority-owned businesses or minority contractors.
But Ford’s naturally taciturn personality probably hindered his public perception. In 2005, during his bid for a second term as mayor, Ford told TFP: “I always assumed that my accomplishments would speak for themselves. This campaign has taught me that the message does not always get out on its own.”
Whatever Ford’s legacy, we must now contend with the void he leaves on Council. City government, which briefly resettled earlier this month with the appointment of small business owner Scott Ramsey to the District 4 City Council seat vacated by Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, is again shaken.
Some may dismiss Ramsey as just another dubious character after the recent revelation that he’s behind on taxes, but he’s reacted with class. He hasn’t ducked or gotten defensive. He even posted the story on his personal Facebook page.
“Being a passionate small business owner doesn’t mean that you have all the answers or will navigate every curve perfectly,” Ramsey wrote on his Facebook page. “We are able to say that we have survived a rough economy, through communication we are making payments on past obligations and have made it nearly 10 years as a new startup business. The lessons we have learned and challenges we have faced have made us stronger, taught us humbleness and developed character. There is learning in our experiences for ourselves and others, always glad to discuss.” For whatever reason, some people weather controversy better than others. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
Good leaders are hard to find. But as we move forward, we must keep trying to do so. As cartoonist Don Lee pens on this page, McHugh, Collins and Ford each “worked from the basic idea that an individual mattered, that the individual made a difference. In fact, that the individual was sometimes the only one who could make a difference. And that we can’t let die.”
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.