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Published: 11/10/2005

No cliffhanger this time

CARTY Finkbeiner's four years of charter-mandated exile from City Hall are about to end, and Toledoans now must hope that their mayor-elect is truly the new man he says he has become.

Mr. Finkbeiner, who was Toledo's first executive mayor in half a century, will return to the job that he coveted for so long, treasured while he had it, and relinquished only because he was term-limited.

He will be mayor once again because he scored a stunningly easy victory over incumbent Mayor Jack Ford, so easy in fact that it represents new territory for Mr. Finkbeiner.

He narrowly defeated former City Councilman Mike Ferner in his first race for mayor in 1993 - prevailing by just 702 votes out of more than 92,000 cast - and did only marginally better in 1997, when he beat an obscure tombstone salesman named Nick Wichowski.

No close call this time. His ouster of Mr. Ford by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent is a landslide by any definition. In both of his previous mayoral campaigns, he had to come from behind to win. This time, buoyed by a huge lead in the Zogby poll, he simply had to avoid coming from ahead to lose.

It is both dissatisfaction with Mr. Ford's relatively undistinguished first term and a recognition that Mr. Finkbeiner, as his campaign signs attested, "gets results." Those results, of course, are not always happy ones, but there has never been any question about Carty's passion for what he does.

What matters now is that he recognizes, and acts, his age - at least figuratively.

He will be 66 when he is sworn in as mayor in January, and while he maintained his energy during the campaign - he says he visited more than half the homes in the city, a truly amazing feat - he is still just 20 months removed from quadruple heart bypass surgery.

Toledo will need to be shown that the new Carty Finkbeiner, the kinder and gentler soul they saw in the debates and at their front doors, is the man who will take office again on Jan. 2.

The suspicion, of course, is that the downside of Carty's passion still lurks within him - that his legendary temper cannot be held in check indefinitely.

Now more than ever, he will need to surround himself with good people, including a chief of staff with the authority to stand in his stead. He will need to be a mayor who concentrates on the big picture and truly allows subordinates to do their jobs, with the understanding that he still holds the hammer if they fail. He will earn their respect if they have his.

We need to acknowledge the quiet dedication of the man Carty will replace. Jack Ford, as we noted in our endorsement of Mr. Finkbeiner, perhaps was better suited as a legislative leader than a chief executive. He wasn't helped by the fact that the solid economy his predecessor enjoyed turned sour on him.

But he will always be this city's first African-American mayor. He should be proud of his career in public service, and we trust he may yet have more to offer. It is to his credit that race never seemed an issue, except perhaps in the few closed minds of those who cling to the bigotry of another era.

What mattered more to the citizens of Toledo in this election was the seeming lack of public effort and achievement - specifically the absence of obvious progress on the Marina District.

Gracious in defeat, Mr. Ford congratulated Mr. Finkbeiner, and so do we. May Carty's impressive victory and legendary passion translate to economic progress for the city he loves.



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