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Published: Thursday, 11/7/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COMMENTARY

Setting the table

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Mayor-elect Mike Collins was at his desk at Government Center at 8 a.m. Wednesday. That tells you something about his work ethic. But so did his campaign.

Meanwhile, he’s still a councilman. He has a job to do until January.

But now he has the added job of mayor-elect. He has the task of setting up his administration. This is no small thing. An administration is only as good as its staffing. Personnel is the whole deal, especially if you ran on a platform of making the city work more efficiently and humanely for the people of Toledo. Good public administration depends on solid principles of governance. But it also depends on good administrators.

The transition phase is when a mayor and his transition team begin to staff the administration. The mayor’s term depends, in a very real sense, on this period of laying the table.

And Mr. Collins’ key appointment will be his chief of staff, now called deputy mayor. He will need someone seasoned, savvy, and tough. Someone who he can trust, but who also has the stature to disagree with him.

A mayor, or a governor, or a president, needs to know his weakness and compensate for it with his staff and appointments. Harry Truman understood this. He surrounded himself with people of independent standing and with people he felt were smarter than he was.

Mayor Bell’s weakness was policy. He needed someone on his staff who was a thinker.

Mr. Collins’ weakness, one of his supporters told me, is “the tall grass. Sometimes he gets lost in the weeds.”

The new mayor will need a person strong enough to pull him out of the weeds, and occasionally remind him that no matter who he “owes,” he has only one duty: to serve the public good as he sees best.

I think Mr. Collins has to trust his gut, proceed methodically as is his wont, and continue to reach out to people. Doing occasional door-to-door and neighborhood meetings are two ways to do that. Forget about re-election; just do the work.

Much of Toledo’s political class does not realize how smart Mike Collins is, or how much steel and humor are in him. They are the same folks who simply assumed he could never beat Mike Bell.

Mr. Collins also has a secret weapon in his wife, Sandra Drabik, a seasoned political veteran in her own right who is also tremendously bright and just a good person (a surprisingly rare combination). Were she not Mrs. Collins, she would be the perfect chief of staff.

Mr. Collins told me Wednesday that, from the time of the victory celebration Tuesday night to the walk from the car to Government Center and ride up in the elevator Wednesday, he had been meeting new “friends” and some surprising old ones.

One or two had told him in the past that they hated his guts. Now they told him they had been secretly rooting for him all along. Mr. Collins relayed this with a twinkle in his eye. This is not his first rodeo.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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