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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Luna Pier mayor gets high marks for wise decisions on tough issues

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Todd Deal Todd Deal
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When Todd Deal was elected Luna Pier mayor in November, he had a long shopping list of things he wanted to achieve in this Lake Erie community in southeastern Monroe County.

Four months into his two-year term, it appears he's gotten off to a good start.

A pair of deteriorating walls - one a city wall on the south end of town, the other an apparent beach protector - are finally being repaired after years of discussion. Paid parking, an idea Mr. Deal championed, has been initiated near the city's marina and beach to raise revenue. And a new city employee health-care plan has been initiated.

"I'm very confident and excited with the things we've [accomplished]," he said. "We've got a lot of plates in the air, spinning. I think it's a little different [than in the past]. We're not used to them all spinning at once. I'm excited yet confident we'll get it done."

Mr. Deal, raised in Oregon, Ohio, moved 18 years ago to Luna Pier where his wife, Robin, was a native. The Deals decided to get involved in local government.

"We used to go to all the council meetings. We were the only ones in the audience. It's a lot different now," he said.

Mr. Deal was elected to City Council 11 years ago. In November, he bested another council member, Dean Ansel, in a contest to replace outgoing Mayor Jerry Welton.

Mr. Deal wanted to become mayor because he was not satisfied with the progress being made on several key projects.

"It seemed like a lot of things weren't getting finished. My goal was to get those loose ends [done] in timely manner," he said.

First up was the health-care benefits package for city employees. Last year, city employees agreed to restructure their benefits to help ease the burden on the city.

"We never implemented Phase 1," Mr. Deal said. "In January, that was the first thing I did. We got that done."

Next up were the walls.

One was built more than 30 years ago to apparently keep the lake from eroding the beach - at least that was one of the thoughts.

"We're not sure it has a purpose," Mr. Deal said.

But the structure is crumbling and the city has spent years talking about fixing it and trying to get the funds.

Mr. Deal said the structure will be repaired as part of an overall plan of increasing shore protection.

The second wall, which extends into the main channel used by the local marina, is deteriorating and leaning forward.

Plans to repair it have been in the works for years.

"We started a month ago," Mr. Deal said, "and we're just now finishing up."

The paid-parking idea came from a Luna Pier resident who winters in Florida, where the practice is common.

Mr. Deal believed it was a good idea and helped convince council. The program was initiated May 1.

Locals can still park for free but the many visitors who visit the city to fish, watch birds, or use the beach will now pay.

"The cost of everything is going up, and our state revenue-sharing [funds] have decreased. The objective is not to raise taxes," Mr. Deal said of the paid- parking plan.

City Administrator Tom Treece said Mr. Deal has done a good job in a difficult environment.

"It's always difficult in a small town where everyone has known each other for a lifetime to govern each other. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made that are in the best interest of not only all the people here today but all the people who are going to be here 50 and 100 years from now," he said.

"I think the main emphasis of the mayor has been not only to correct the problems of tomorrow but anticipate ones in the future. I don't know that has always been done."

Mr. Deal closed the city's popular shooting range recently after its insurance company raised safety and liability issues. The range will eventually re-open, after the issues are dealt with.

"I think that, overall, he's had to make tough decisions," Mr. Treece said. "But he's made wise decisions. He's a man of principle and conviction. He doesn't shoot from the hip."

Mr. Deal's day job finds him overseeing seafood departments for 16 Farmer Jack stores. That work plus the mayor's job, which pays $1,000 a year, keeps him plenty busy.

"It's not about the money," he said. "It's about giving something back to your community."

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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