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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

GOP nod may keep top job for Barlos

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Democratic Party may have turned its back on Lucas County Commissioner Harry Barlos, but his new alliance with the Republicans likely will allow him to remain president of the board.

The commissioners will decide Monday which of the three will be the president this year.

Usually there s little drama about who claims the first-among-equals job. But this year, Mr. Barlos, a lifelong Democrat, suddenly finds himself as an Independent sitting between Democrat Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Republican Maggie Thurber.

Given that Ms. Wozniak didn t support him last month when the party s executive committee endorsed Toledo City Councilman Pete Gerken for the seat, Mr. Barlos said it s fair to ask whether she could back him for president.

“There s a twist, there s no doubt about it,” said Mr. Barlos, who has been endorsed by the county Republicans. “It s different than it was 12 months ago when there were two fresh board members around. The difference is what happened last month with respect to my re-election.”

Instead of counting on the virtually automatic support of a fellow Democrat, it looks like Mr. Barlos will get a boost from Ms. Thurber, the board s lone Republican.

“It s my intent to continue to support Harry. I think he does a good job of running our meetings,” she said. “The thing I appreciate about Harry is that he s very fair about letting everyone say their piece.”

Though Ms. Thurber said the Republican endorsement came with no strings attached, she does hope that she and Mr. Barlos “can come together a little more on things we would like to do.”

When asked who she would support for president, Ms. Wozniak declined to make her views public other than to say, “I am not seeking the post at this point.”

The president of the board runs the meetings by calling the agenda items and determining the order in which the other commissioners speak. But the president has no more power than the other members of the board.

What Monday s vote might indicate is whether Ms. Thurber and Mr. Barlos develop a better working relationship. In the year since Ms. Thurber joined the board, they ve occasionally clashed and had frosty public exchanges.

Bernadette Noe, the county s Republican chairman, said she thinks Mr. Barlos and Ms. Thurber have developed a better understanding with each other in the last four to six weeks.

“In my opinion, Tina is the odd man out,” Ms. Noe said. “So maybe Harry and Maggie will take turns as to who s in the driver s seat. I think [Ms. Wozniak] is in the minority now - it might be tough for her to run for election.”

Ms. Wozniak will defend her seat against state Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) in November s general election.

Paula Ross, county Democratic Party chairman, said Ms. Thurber and Mr. Barlos have teamed up on certain issues, which is one of the problems the party had with him.

“As president of the board over the past year, I think Harry has failed to lead,” she said. “As the most veteran member, it was his role to create an agenda for the board, whether it was a Democratic agenda or not. That s part of what our party was disappointed by.”



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