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Published: Wednesday, 3/25/2009

Toledo's former fire Chief Mike Bell to run for mayor


Former Toledo Fire Chief and State Fire Marshal Mike Bell will announce his candidacy for mayor Wednesday as a political independent.

Mr. Bell, who was fire chief for 16 years and was the first big-city African-American fire chief in Ohio, plans to announce his run for the city's top executive position Wednesday morning in front of Toledo Fire Station 25 on Central Avenue in West Toledo where he started his career.

In an interview Tuesday with The Blade, Mr. Bell, 54, said that even though he is a lifelong Democrat he would not seek the Democratic Party's endorsement.

He said the city's problems require cooperation of Democrats and Republicans, and he said he would not be able to agree with the party's usual condition of endorsement, that he end his campaign and support an opponent if he doesn't get the party's endorsement.

He said he quit a good job as state fire marshal and he's not going to quit the campaign until the voters have spoken.

"I am like the hog at the farmer's picnic," Mr. Bell said. "The hog is totally committed. I'm totally committed to this cause of running for mayor and attempting to turn this city around."

Mr. Bell joins fellow Democrat Keith Wilkowski and Republican Jim Moody as declared candidates, along with nine minor candidates who have taken out petitions to try to get on the Sept. 15 primary ballot to run for mayor.

Still undecided are incumbent Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, both Democrats, and Republican city Councilman George Sarantou. The filing deadline is July 17.

He joined the city fire and rescue department in 1980 as a firefighter and later became a paramedic. He was appointed chief in 1990, becoming the youngest ever and the first African-American chief in a major city department in Ohio.

Mr. Bell resigned in April, 2007, to accept the appointment as state fire marshal under Gov. Ted Strickland. He recently turned in his letter of resignation with the state.

He said he has maintained his Toledo home at 3010 Hopewell Place and returned all but three or four weekends from his rented apartment in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg.

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