Few people who get to know Sandy Isenberg dislike her. She is a warm and caring individual with a politician's flair for remembering names and faces. Her record of public service as a Toledo city councilman, Lucas County recorder, and county commissioner is long and largely distinguished.
But along with longevity can come carelessness, an arrogance not of disagreeability but of indifference, the mistaken notion that the rules are for someone else and that lengthy tenure brings with it unassailability.
The result: Ms. Isenberg is in the political race of her life against a quality opponent, and she has only herself to blame.
After 31 years as both an elected and appointed public official, Ms. Isenberg is having to defend herself for announcing she would accept a government pension and continue as a commissioner, then declaring - only after a public outcry - that she'd forgo the premature pension after all.
After three decades serving the people of Toledo and Lucas County, she has had to explain how it was that she never paid a building contractor for putting a new roof on her house until the deal became public more than 10 months later.
Neither episode is playing well with her constituents, many of whom live from paycheck to paycheck and will never see a pension - much less a double-dip - or a sweetheart of a deal from a roofer.
Fortunately for Lucas County residents and taxpayers, the quality opponent Ms. Isenberg faces is eminently qualified to become a county commissioner. Maggie Thurber was just 29 when she was first elected Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court in 1993, knocking off longtime Democratic Party kingpin James Holzemer.
In the nine years since, she has grown and matured as a public official, one with the brass to stand up to those who wanted her to fail. Today she is at the head of the Lucas County Republican Party's Nov. 5 ticket, campaigning aggressively and competing toe-to-toe against a woman whom she acknowledges she admires as a pioneer for women in politics locally.
Yes, it's true that Ms. Isenberg's success has rendered the gender issue virtually moot in Lucas County politics, and that is as it should be. But in the process she has shown that she is no more immune to the pitfalls of extended public careers than her male counterparts.
The county's recent return of $555,000 in job training funds to the state - because the money wasn't spent in time - speaks to the point. That would not have happened on an attentive board president's watch.
There is another issue in this race, and that is the opportunity to bring at least a measure of balance to the board of county commissioners. For many years in this heavily Democratic county, unofficial tradition gave the Democrats two seats on the board and the Republicans one.
But the Democrats have maintained a hammerlock on all three seats now for 14 years. Not since Al Hawkins left the board in 1988 has a Republican kept a loyal if wary eye on the two Democrats. The time has come for that to change. Knowing Maggie Thurber as we do, we have no doubt that she will handle that aspect of the job well.
Neither candidate in this race has been especially insightful on the subject of urban sprawl and its obvious deleterious effects on Lucas County, particularly in the western and southwestern townships, where runaway growth and congestion have dragged down the quality of life. We trust Ms. Thurber will come to embrace the concept of smart growth and educate her colleagues on the board.
The electorate has made an investment in Commissioner Isenberg. The citizens have given her their votes and their faith over the years.
But there are times in the public arena when change is necessary, and the time has come to make a new investment - this time in Ms. Thurber. The Lucas County Republican Party is coming back from the dead, and it needs to be encouraged and nurtured.
Just as it is not easy to dislike Sandy Isenberg, neither is it easy to recommend that she be replaced. Should she lose, it will be a shame that her political career would end in such a fashion. However, our responsibility is to the public the commissioners serve. Viewed in that light, the choice becomes simpler:
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