Candidate seeks return to system of weak mayor

Toledo mayoral candidate Alan Cox meets with the Blade editorial board.
Toledo mayoral candidate Alan Cox meets with the Blade editorial board.

Mayoral candidate Alan Cox, who is trying to restore Toledo to a city manager form of government, said Monday that Toledo is functioning under that form of government with Mayor Mike Bell in charge but not by what he believes are good management principles.

Mr. Cox, one of seven candidates for mayor on the Sept. 10 ballot, met with The Blade’s editorial board Monday as part of the newspaper’s process for possibly making an endorsement.

The other candidates are Mayor Bell, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, City councilmen Joe McNamara and D. Michael Collins, retired city worker Michael Konwinski, and evangelist Opal Covey.

“That’s been one of the big frustrations for me. I see Mayor Bell as really running our city as it used to run under the city manager form of government,” Mr. Cox said. He said Mr. Bell has left Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat in charge.

“I just haven’t seen the kind of leadership and responsibility and authority that needs to be given. He seems to be the social type or representative type of mayor than one who is truly a chief executive and administrative officer,” Mr. Cox said.

He said he supported Mayor Bell four years ago, but he said he has been disappointed.

“I thought he was going to show us what real management and leadership are all about,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Bell was not available for comment and was away on an an economic development mission, according to his spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei. She would not give details of the trip.

She and Mr. Herwat both denied that Mr. Herwat functions as the mayor. He is one of three deputy mayors, with oversight of public service, public utilities, law, and finance, while two other deputies oversee development, police and fire, inspections, human resources, and neighborhoods.

“The mayor has brought leadership and management to the city but he has also relied on competent administrators to assist him in that task, and yes, Steve Herwat is an integral part of the team,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

They said the mayor holds a Monday morning meeting with his executive staff, including the three deputy mayors and the directors of law and finance, and a Monday afternoon staff meeting with all the directors, including the chiefs of police and fire and directors supervising neighborhoods, public services, public utilities, plan commission, and human resources. Each meeting typically lasts about 90 minutes.

“I give direction after I consult with the mayor. That’s my job to make certain that what he wants to do gets done,” Mr. Herwat said.

“Perhaps Mr. Cox should be at our Monday morning staff meetings that we have with the mayor where he sets the tone and direction he wants us to follow each week,” Mr. Herwat said. He then said he was not inviting Mr. Cox and the other mayoral candidates to be at the mayor’s staff meetings.

“Mike Bell is not a micromanager. He puts the right people in the right places and gives them direction and gets out of their way.”

Mr. Cox said the mayor should make more use of the presidents of the employee unions, such as himself, because of their knowledge of their departments and the views of their members. Mr. Cox is president of Local 2058, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which numbers about 200 employees in supervisory, professional, and technical jobs.

He said he would allow them to have more say about their pay and benefits by establishing the budget for each of the bargaining units and invite them to tell him how to distribute the budgets. He said he would take their suggestions “if it’s reasonable and appropriate.”

He said he would not rehire retired employees into the same jobs they were doing, and said he would ask for the resignation of Police Chief Derrick Diggs. Chief Diggs retired as chief in March and came back a few days later, allowing him to collect his pension and his salary. Mr. Collins also has said he would seek Chief Diggs’ removal if he is elected mayor.

Ms. Sorgenfrei said Chief Diggs has brought “dynamic ideas” to the department, such as data-driven policing. She said he is also grooming younger leadership for the department.

A city neighborhood department specialist, Mr. Cox said that if he is elected he would use his platform as mayor to get a question on the ballot to return the city to its pre-1994 form of government, which was a weak mayor and a strong city manager who was hired by the city council, ostensibly for his management expertise.

As a policy change, Mr. Cox said he would end the city’s practice of giving grants for home improvements. He said the money, provided by the federal government through a block grant, has been declining, and it would be better used as a loan so that it would come back to the city to be used again.

He also said he would be a more activist mayor in promoting change and improvement in the public, private, and charter schools operating in Toledo.

Mr. Cox ran for mayor in 1997, coming in third out of five candidates, with 17 percent of the vote in the primary.

Contact Tom Troy: or 419--724-6058.