Newsmakers 2013: Spang ready to make impactWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | email@example.com
It was a serendipitous year for Sandy Spang.
A year ago, she was nominated to fill a seat on Toledo City Council left vacant by now-Lucas County Recorder Phil Copeland. She wasn’t voted in.
So Spang attended weekly Council meetings for nearly a year to learn how they worked. She wanted a seat on Council, so she decided to run for one of the six available seats in the November election.
Well-meaning advisers told Spang, who was virtually unknown in the Toledo political scene, to run once for name recognition before making a serious run for Council. But that just wasn’t Spang’s style.
“I was in it to win it from the start,” Spang said.
She said having to campaign for her Council seat gave her the opportunity to learn more about the city she will represent. She was sworn into office Jan. 2.
“As much as I would have liked to receive the appointment, the experience of a campaign and attending the meetings has taught me so much about the city and city issues. It’s an invaluable experience,” Spang said. “Now I have one year of Council meetings under my belt where I could be observing. Running at large, I was in neighborhoods I had never been in before, and that I’m now very interested in. When you campaign at large, you learn so much more about the city.”
Spang, a lifelong South Toledoan, said she is most honored by one statistic from the November election that landed her a spot on Council.
“The statistic from the campaign I’m most proud of is that I was solidly in third place, even before any of the South Toledo votes came in. So I was able to get my message to the city as a whole,” Spang said.
Spang made a name for herself among a crowded field of 17 candidates by marketing herself as an advocate for small businesses and neighborhoods. Those issues are ones Spang was familiar with even before she decided to enter politics. Plate 21, the coffee shop she owns with her husband, anchors a revitalized retail strip in South Toledo.
She said one of her main goals in her first few months on Council is to make it easier for small businesses to start — and flourish — in Toledo.
“I would really like to see us have a package for microbusinesses, those that do less than $1,000 a day in business. Those are the businesses that do so much for the communities and neighborhoods,” Spang said. “I want to put together a package of appropriate regulations to support a start-up. That’s a really special interest of mine.”
Spang said she also hopes to get more acclimated with the climate for all businesses in the city.
“I want to run two tracks. I need to meet my responsibilities as a Council member, but I also want to get to know businesses that are based in Toledo. I want to meet with businesses that export as well as smaller, community businesses,” she said.
Spang said she thought the time between the election and her taking office would provide a respite from months of campaigning work, but that wasn’t the case. She said toured a local water treatment facility and the soon-to-be rehabbed Berdan Building downtown. She had meetings with everyone from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to the Lucas County Land Bank and members of city departments to get a feel for the needs of the city.
“I thought this would be a kind of lull to get my business and personal life in order. But it’s been a wonderful opportunity because I get access with no responsibilities,” Spang said. “I’ve taken every single meeting I’ve been invited to.”
Spang planned to spend time with her three children — home from California, New York and France — before she assumes office. But then it’s time for business.
“I feel the great burden of responsibility to get issues right, to do my homework and see both sides of issues. The biggest challenge is to anticipate the unintended consequences of actions. The only way to do that is to stay humble and listen, and to know that the right answer is often in that middle ground,” Spang said.
And despite her rookie status on Council, Spang says she’s ready to make an impact.
“It’s a four-year term, and each year has a different flavor. The first year is all about learning. There are lots of things Council has to accomplish. But I know what people elected me to do, and that’s to work with small businesses and neighborhoods. And I’m not going to forget that,” Spang said.