Toledo Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell, front, embraces Phil Copeland after he swore him in as Lucas County recorder at One Government Center.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Philip Copeland resigned Friday from Toledo City Council to be immediately sworn in as Lucas County Recorder, thus kicking off a struggle among Lucas County Democratic leaders to name a candidate to replace him.
The Lucas County Democratic Party has recommended Shaun Enright, an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union Local 8, which would set him up to run as an incumbent in the fall for a full four-year term on council.
But two Democratic councilmen announced that they will support former Mayor Jack Ford for the seat. With Mr. Ford’s name in contention, neither he nor Mr. Enright, so far, has the necessary six votes to win the council appointment.
Council President Joe McNamara, a possible candidate for mayor, and District 3 Councilman Mike Craig said Mr. Copeland’s departure from the at-large position means Toledo City Council now has fewer than three black members for the first time in 10 years.
Except for a 14-month period in 2002 and 2003, Toledo has always had two black members representing districts and one black at-large councilman since the city returned to a strong-mayor form of government 19 years ago.
Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig said Mr. Ford is the best candidate for council and also would ensure council's racial makeup roughly approximates the racial makeup of Toledo, which is 27.2 percent black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
“African-Americans are the most loyal constituency within the Democratic Party, and Toledo cannot afford to have African-Americans see their representation on Council decrease,” said Mr. McNamara. Mr. Copeland and Mr. Ford are black.
But others said Mr. Copeland’s labor affiliation, not just his ethnicity, also needs to be carried on in council.
Leaders of the Democratic Party, the black community, and the IBEW turned out at Mr. Copeland's oath-of-office ceremony Friday morning in the county commissioners’ chambers in Government Center, where his union affiliation was heralded.
Mr. Copeland was lauded by WilliAnn Moore, a regional coordinator for the Ohio NAACP, who said she and Mr. Copeland went to elementary school and high school together.
“You have worked your way up from the ranks. You never, ever took a shortcut,” Ms. Moore said.
Pastor Cedric Brock, a frequent Democratic activist, took to the lectern to pray for Mr. Copeland.
Lucas County Democratic Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said Mr. McNamara claims Mr. Enright was not electable because of brushes with the law when he was 19.
Mr. Rothenbuhler said he believes Mr. Enright can get elected and would make a good addition to council because of his youth and labor outlook.
“I think the labor community is looking for the same balance as they had before,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said. “I believe Shaun has shown a great deal of respect for authority and has changed his life.”
Council is expected to start voting on Tuesday to fill the vacancy. Council rules require a vote of six to fill a vacancy within 30 days. If no candidate is able to gain six votes by Feb. 3, the appointment can be made by Mayor Mike Bell, who is a political independent.
Mr. Copeland, 67, defeated Republican George Sarantou in November. He succeeds Jeanine Perry, also a Democrat, who did not seek another four-year term as county recorder.
In remarks in the commissioners’ One Government Center meeting room, Mr. Copeland thanked supporters and expressed loyalty to the union that he continues to work for as business manager, Laborers Local 500.
The swearing-in was conducted by Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell. Sarah Copeland, one of Mr. Copeland's four children, stood with him as he took the oath of office.
County commissioner Pete Gerken praised Mr. Copeland as someone who would represent working people in government, and noted that Mr. Copeland followed him on Toledo council. Mr. Gerken also came from a labor background, having worked as the co-administrator of a Chrysler-United Auto Workers training center.
“We act as a team, and this is a great team member. He took my seat and did an admirable job holding down the viewpoint of labor,” Mr. Gerken said.
Mr. Copeland’s uncle, the late Bill Copeland, was county recorder from 1985 to 1990. The younger Mr. Copeland was appointed to city council in January, 2005, and was elected later that year and again in 2009.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.