The Sept. 10 primary election is approaching and eight mayoral candidates — four of whom are not considered front-runners — are vying for the top two spots.
Some of them have decades of experience in city government and ideas about how to put the city’s operations in order. Others feel their primary qualification for the job stems from their religious faith.
In addition to Mayor Mike Bell, City Councilman D. Michael Collins, Councilman Joe McNamara, and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, there are four others in the race.
Michael Konwinski, the only Libertarian candidate in the running, said he hates to see waste in his personal life and in city government. If elected, he would work on eliminating what he calls “position creep,” when two people are doing the job of one.
He plans to reduce the cost of city government by scrapping unnecessary administrative and managerial positions and implementing a performance review system to hold employees accountable.
A Toledo native, Mr. Konwinski, 57, received a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Toledo in 1978.
Although he retired in December, he has more than 30 years of experience in city service, primarily in the water distribution department. He spent his last three and a half years of employment in the finance department, helping to put the city on a new financial software program.
Mr. Konwinski said he would run Toledo with “more of a business attitude as opposed to a political attitude.”
He plans to reduce the city income tax from 2.25 percent to 2 percent, and he hopes to make the city more business-friendly by streamlining the permitting process for businesses.
Mr. Konwinski admits he is not a career politician. “If I don’t win this, I’m not going to run again. I don’t like the politics of it,” he said. “If I can’t effect the change I want in four years, then I don’t deserve the spot. If I can effect the change I want, then I’ll be happy with that and let it go to the next person.”
Alan Cox, who is running as an independent, has similar priorities. As mayor, he said he would work to “right size staffing, getting proper people in management, and getting the budget in line.”
After 23 years as a city neighborhood department specialist and 10 years as president of Local 2058 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Mr. Cox said he knows which staffing levels need to be adjusted. “I can make arguments for why certain positions are not needed,” he said.
Mr. Cox, 60, wants to return to the city manager form of government that Toledo had before 1994. According to this model, the mayor is a representative and a city manager is hired by City Council based upon his or her management expertise.
“Let’s put it in the hands of a professional who is appointed and is held accountable,” he said. “I believe it’s the best solution, but I want to make sure we do something that is consistent with what the citizens want.”
That’s why Mr. Cox would aim to put the issue on the general election ballot in November, 2014, if elected mayor.
Another priority of his would be allowing union leaders to determine how they want to allocate their budgets to each of their bargaining units.
Mr. Cox ran for mayor in 1997 and came in third among five candidates. Born in Detroit, he lived in various states during his childhood. He graduated from Start High School in Toledo in 1971 and got his bachelor’s of science from the University of Toledo in 1979.
If elected, Mr. Cox hopes to follow the leadership maxims of Stephen Covey, who wrote Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) and John Maxwell, who has written more than 60 books, many of them on leadership. Their main principles are respecting, empowering, and recognizing people.
Opal Covey, 73, is a familiar face in the mayoral contest. Since she first ran for mayor in 2001, she has maintained one issue as the centerpiece of her platform: her vision from God to build “Paradise Amusement Park” in Promenade Park downtown and make Toledo a resort city.
Ms. Covey says she is a prophetic evangelist who has been hearing the voice of God since he helped her overcome an illness at age 13. In July, 2001, she said she was driving down Dorr Street and God gave her a vision of the amusement park she would build as mayor to boost Toledo’s economy.
“I have an appointment by God to make the city prosper,” she said.
Ms. Covey started the race as an independent but switched to Republican in March. Her highest reported vote total was 384 of 46,801 votes in the 2001 primary.
She moved to Toledo in 1977 and opened several short-lived churches and later Opal’s Country Store and Thrift Shop. She said she fed the hungry, worked with drug addicts to become sober, and ran a pet shop out of her store. In 1997, the Toledo Area Humane Society raided her store and confiscated 477 underfed animals living in crowded cages.
She turned to politics when she lost her business.
She said she must keep running for mayor until she gets it, and she has no doubt that she will eventually get it. “I’m the only one who’s said they have a true vision and it’s directly from the throne,” she said.
Write-in candidate Donald Gozdowski has made his faith a large part of his life and platform as well.
A lifelong Toledoan, Mr. Gozdowski, 59, was a chaplain at Cherry Street Mission from 1990 to 1995. He has a bachelor’s degree in Christian counseling from the Theological University of America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work at Owens Community College.
“My spiritual heart commands me to run for mayor,” he said. “A spiritually minded man in office would be a good thing, someone that’s not afraid to speak his convictions, to tell people what he’s found to be true in life.”
Although he admitted that he has no specific political experience, he said he has learned from the “college of hard knocks.” He fled a dysfunctional home to fight in the Vietnam War as a teenager.
“My worldview was essentially Toledo,” he said. “When I finally went out into the world, my worldview exploded. It really was overwhelming in a sense.”
If elected mayor, he would work on building a KOA-style campground to attract more tourists to Toledo and create jobs. He also wants to better connect Toledo with the rest of the world by getting international agencies, such as Doctors with Borders, involved in the city.
Mr. Gozdowski was on the ballot for mayor in 2005. He tried to run in 2009 but did not get enough signatures from registered voters.
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