Mike vs. Mike: A study of 2 confident men


A wise friend said to me about Mike Bell and Mike Collins, “They are more alike than different. Both are basically conservative. Both are paramilitary command decision types, one from the fire department and one from the police department."

In recent days, I have heard a variation on this theme several times. Mike and Mike are more alike than different and a Collins administration won’t be much different than a Bell administration. Both, said another wag, are “my-way-or-the highway” guys.

I take the point. These are two very confident guys; two very strongly opinionated guys.

I also see that the command approach, which has its pluses and its minuses, is at work in Mr. Bell. A mayor without any vision is just a caretaker who runs the risk of constantly reacting, rather than acting. In Mr. Bell’s case, the command approach is understandable. You can’t fight fires and simultaneously hold a roundtable discussion. And you can’t fight the next fire if you are second-guessing your actions in the last fire.

I am not sure Mr. Collins really has the same leadership approach or style. He was a beat cop, not a commander. That meant he had to do more observing and listening than giving orders. And as a councilman, it’s the same. As a council member he is listening to constituents and working, always, with colleagues. Mr. Collins’ colleagues say he can be prickly and “difficult,” but they also say he gets things done and can work across party lines.

Being a commander is good preparation for being a mayor. But being a councilman is too, in another, maybe even more valid, way.

Where the two Mikes are most different is in philosophy, approach, personal vision.

Mr. Bell is loose and liberal in demeanor. But he is really a conservative in values: In his view, it takes parents to raise a child, not a village. Business creates jobs, not government. Individuals are the authors of their lives, not history, and not the community.

Mr. Collins is quite conservative in demeanor but his philosophy is profoundly influenced by two things: his Catholicism and his experience as a union leader. He is much more a “we-rise-and-fall-together” sort of guy. That is why, perhaps, he has championed the homeless shelters in the city. There is no political payoff there.

These are two interesting guys. Mr. Bell was a big country-western fan for a time. He says “every American should be able to experience every part of America.”

Mr. Collins has dual citizenship — he holds an Irish passport because his father was born in Ireland.

Mr. Bell counts the days until the election. He can’t wait to “decompress” and get back on his Harley.

Mr. Collins says, “I'm not a rock star. I’m not going to be hanging out in the bars all night.”

People talk about the similarities. I see the contrasts.

My sense is that not only are the unions angry at the mayor, but the neighborhoods feel forgotten. Advantage Collins.

I think Mr. Bell is very likely to bring big business to Toledo, maybe even before Election Day. (Beware the November surprise.) Advantage Bell.

If the election turns on personality, the charismatic and charming Mr. Bell likely wins. If it turns on issues, the dogged Mr. Collins wins.

I don’t think Mr. Bell will change his approach to human services, policing, or the Department of Neighborhoods.

Mr. Collins will. But if people don’t think that, if people think Mr. Collins is nothing more than an Irish version of Mr. Bell, Mr. Bell wins.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.