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Published: Thursday, 7/7/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Bell keeps re-election options open

Photographer hired for weekend events

Mayor Mike Bell says he wants to focus on making change and is undecided about a second term. The election is in 2013. Mayor Mike Bell says he wants to focus on making change and is undecided about a second term. The election is in 2013.

As a candidate for mayor in 2009, Mike Bell said he wasn't planning for a long career in politics and suggested one term would be enough.

"If you do it the right way you're probably going to be a one-term mayor because if you do, you're not going to be very popular," Mr. Bell said at an Oct. 8, 2009, debate.

It seems the mayor is at least keeping his re-election options open.

Mr. Bell hired a professional photographer to be paid by his political campaign committee to take pictures at two events over the holiday weekend: the closing on the $3.8 million purchase of the Marina District property by the China-based investment firm Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. and the swearing-in of Luis Santiago as city fire chief, both on Saturday. He said the events were important to him and to the city and he wanted photographs of them.

"We wanted some really good pictures and we don't have a photographer on hand here and this was a very memorable event," Mr. Bell said. "And if I do want to do something in the future I'll have the pictures. They'll be part of my assets if I choose to move forward with an election in the future."

He didn't rule out making the pictures available for city archives or for developing materials to promote the city, such as for an economic development trip.

The mayor said he is still undecided about seeking a second term, which would not occur until 2013, and wants to keep his concentration on making change, regardless of the political consequences.

"I have to continue to run this business like I'm not going to run [for re-election] in order to stay focused on what I need to be able to do as mayor to turn this city around. If re-election is my key concern then the way you act as a politician as compared to somebody who's very focused on trying to make change is totally different," Mr. Bell said.

A longtime Democrat, former city fire chief, and former state fire marshal, Mr. Bell ran as a political independent in 2009 and defeated endorsed Democrat Keith Wilkowski. Since then, he's maintained a political committee, Mike Bell for Toledo. At the end of 2010, the account had $48,426, according to a report on file with the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Jen Sorgenfrei, a spokesman for Mayor Bell, said the mayor hired Grand Lubell Photography to photograph both events and said it is permitted under Ohio election law. She said Mr. Bell has hired Mr. Lubell in the past.

Mark Luetke, president of FLS Marketing Inc. and Mr. Bell's 2009 media consultant, said he hasn't talked with Mr. Bell about re-election. He said it's possible the mayor used the campaign account to pay for the pictures that might have some official use to avoid any controversy over spending city money on something not strictly essential.

He said he included a question about Mr. Bell in a poll last November and the mayor was, at that time, "an extremely popular political figure."

Ron Rothenbuhler, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said he believes the mayor indicated when he ran in 2009 that he wanted only one term.

"I saw a professional photographer [at the Marina District event] -- that doesn't mean that he's actually going to run again," Mr. Rothenbuhler said. "I've heard that he might not run again but I don't know." He said he hasn't been soliciting for a Democratic candidate in 2013 and nobody has stepped forward to be a candidate.

Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said he thinks the hiring of a photographer on the campaign committee's payroll indicates an intent to seek re-election.

"I think Mike Bell will run for election in 2013," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Keith Jordan, the head of a business that contracts with schools and the court system to provide employment to troubled youths and assisted in Mr. Bell's 2009 campaign, said he believes the mayor will want a second term to finish what he started.

"The type of guy he is, aggressive, competitive, I think he's going to stay until the job gets completed. He has goals he has set for himself -- safer city, reduction in crime, job opportunities, better economy, balancing budgets. If that's not done he's going to stay until the job is finished," Mr. Jordan said.

He thinks the mayor has a "strong chance" of being re-elected. "I look for him to run in 2013," Mr. Jordan said.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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