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Published: Wednesday, 11/20/2002

After loss of 3rd board position, Nicholson remains philosophical

Even as his colleagues were caught by surprise, J. Patrick Nicholson was philosophical yesterday about his requested resignation from Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership.

The local businessman was nudged out of three public or quasi-public board seats in less than four months - directorships of the growth partnership, the partnership's Regional Technology Alliance, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

He lost two of the seats to make room for an appointee of Toledo Mayor Jack Ford; the other was to keep with the plan for the makeup of the board.

“I'll do whatever is needed,” said Mr. Nicholson, 66, founder and chairman of N-Viro International, Inc., a publicly traded Toledo-based licensor of wastewater-treatment technology.

Still, his abrupt resignation Monday from the growth partnership surprised even agency chairman Mark Zyndorf.

Mr. Zyndorf, principal in Zyndorf/Serchuk Investment Co. Ltd., said he found out about Mr. Nicholson's resignation just before the board meeting started. Then he announced it to the board.

Board member Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, said: “Pat's resignation disappoints me. Had I known they wanted a [vacancy] I would have resigned.”

The shuffling began when Mayor Ford chose not to reappoint Mr. Nicholson to the port authority board when his term expired July 31. Mr. Nicholson was port authority chairman at the time and had been a port board member for the last four years and for 12 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

The mayor appointed Kenneth Dobson, director of community and economic development at the University of Toledo. Mr. Dobson, an African-American, joined the board in August.

Next, Mr. Nicholson was replaced by the port authority as its representative on the 15-member technology alliance board. A month ago, the port authority instead named its president, James Hartung, to the post. Mr. Nicholson said that post was supposed to be held by the port's executive director, but he had been named initially because he helped raise money for the alliance's start-up.

Mr. Nicholson's term as a growth partnership board member had two more years to go, but he learned a week ago he held the spot destined for Mr. Dobson. Mr. Nicholson said yesterday that he received a phone call from James White, Jr., chairman of the port authority, asking him to resign.

“He asked me as a favor,” said Mr. Nicholson. “I said `Write a letter.' Obviously I was disappointed [but] I respect the port authority, the chairman, and the mayor. The mayor had told Jim [White] he wanted Ken Dobson on the RGP board.”

The letter written by Mr. White, a partner in the law firm Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, pointed out that Mr. Dobson has a “significant background in economic development, both from a practical and academic standpoint, [and] I feel that it is important that Ken be appointed to the RGP board as soon as possible. This is particularly important since we are currently in the process of re-examining the economic development functions and processes in our community ... and I feel Ken would be a significant contributor to this process.”

The port authority has 13 directors - six appointed by the city, six by Lucas County, and one jointly appointed. The growth partnership has up to 20 directors (one seat was vacant even before Mr. Nicholson's resignation), nine of whom are appointed by the port authority, and four of whom are named by the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce. Typically, six members serve at the same time as port board members.

There has been overlap among the boards of the port authority, growth partnership, and technology alliance. Until now, only Mr. Nicholson wore all three hats at one time.

Mr. Zyndorf said yesterday he expects to be the second to serve on all three boards, anticipating being named next month to the technology board.

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