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Published: Tuesday, 1/29/2013

Mayor eases into Walbridge role

Ex-council chief succeeds Wilczynski

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ed Kolanko, the new mayor of Walbridge, hasn’t decided if he will run for election in November to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor. He’s leaning in that direction, but he said he isn’t ready to commit himself.

“Right now, I’m just getting a grip on what’s going on,” he said. “I want to make a successful transition and get on the same page as everybody so we can breathe a little easier.”

Mr. Kolanko acceded to the village’s highest elective office earlier this month after longtime incumbent Dan Wilczynski forfeited the position for not attending enough council meetings to comply with state law.

Mr. Kolanko, as council president, was first in line of succession. Because Mr. Wilczynski had more than two years left in his four-year term, Mr. Kolanko will have to run in November to retain the office, Debbie Hazard, deputy director of the Wood County Board of Elections, said.

Walbridge has installed a new mayor, but it is short two council members.

That’s because member Pat Fox quit the panel a day before Mr. Wilczynski left the mayor’s post, stating in his Jan. 12 letter of resignation that he “no longer felt part of the team.”

Council has 30 days to fill Mr. Fox’s seat and the seat Mr. Kolanko relinquished or the appointments become the responsibility of the mayor. Walbridge residents interested in serving are invited to submit a letter at the municipal building stating as much.

The 39-year-old Mr. Kolanko grew up in Walbridge and graduated from Lake High School and the University of Toledo, where he majored in finance. He is single, has no children, and works as a personal-financial representative for Allstate Financial.

The new mayor said it would be premature of him to discuss changes he might be considering, but he did say that he wanted to improve communication between the village administration and council.

“My number one goal right now is to reopen the lines of communication,” he said.

Mr. Wilczynski was mayor for 10 years. He too assumed the office as council president when his predecessor, Robert Robson, resigned. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2011.

Village Solicitor Brian Ballenger said Mr. Wilczynski ran afoul of the state requirement that he miss no more than 40 percent of council meetings over a two-year period.

“I think he was over the limit by one or two meetings,” Mr. Ballenger said.

“Council made a motion and declared his seat forfeited.”

Walbridge has gained publicity for its often fractious government. Mr. Wilczynski said he worked to improve the village’s public image and was successful until recently.

He said he was proud of the line-item budgeting adopted during his tenure that showed where costs could be cut and efficiencies achieved. When the village suffered a budget crunch, he took no salary for one year and a 50 percent pay cut another year, he said. The mayoral salary is $7,200 annually; council members are paid $3,000.

Over the years, Mr. Wilczynski said, his busy career as a self-employed mechanical engineer caused him to miss meetings. But he now worked for energy giant BP in process safety and traveled less.

“I’ve been in town more this past year than in previous years,” he said, adding that he did not rule out future runs for elective office.

Mr. Kolanko served on council for almost six years and was originally appointed to fill a vacant seat. He won his own full term in 2009.



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