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Published: Monday, 10/28/2013

8 candidates compete for 4 council seats in testy race

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Eight candidates are competing for four Maumee council seats in a nonpartisan election Nov. 5, and although there is no mayoral race, the city’s handling of longtime Mayor Tim Wagener’s departure is a component in campaigns.

Some residents continue to contend that council unfairly ousted the former mayor, who had been elected to another term.

Financially conservative candidates Hal Simon, 62, retired from a Fortune 500 company and who served as president of a chain of convenience stores, and John Schafer, 53, a local business owner, said as councilmen they would show respect for residents’ votes.

Last year Mr. Wagener resigned from his post, citing health concerns. Council President Richard Carr took over as mayor in accordance with the city’s charter.

Earlier in 2012, Mr. Wagener received a “public reprimand” from the Ohio Ethics Commission after admitting he intermingled his personal finances with his public office.

Even with public awareness of the investigation, Mayor Wagener easily won re-election in November, 2011, beating Councilman Timothy Pauken, with 63 percent of the vote.

Mr. Simon, who said he wants term limits implemented for council to avoid an “entitlement mentality,” said he is running for office because he was displeased when council “annulled” the last mayoral election by forcing Mr. Wagener out of office.

“It sounded more like a coup than American democracy. That really sounds harsh, but people have been around too long and they get entitled. It is time for some new people,” he said.

Mr. Pauken, 53, first elected to council in 2005, said he is seeking re-election because “I enjoy what I do. We have a city moving forward. I want to continue that.”

His family has lived in the city for five generations; he is a third-generation family member to hold elected office. He is a building engineer at a Maumee school.

Incumbent Brent Buehrer, 49, a licensed architect, said he would like to serve another term — he’s served 16 years so far — because he enjoys serving the community. “The group [of elected officials] is outstanding. There really is focus with Mayor Carr,” he said. “It has been great for the city and it pays dividends for the city as a whole.”

Financially, Mr. Buehrer said, the city is moving in the right direction with income-tax revenue up $560,000 year-to-date as of September, and 600 jobs have been added to the local economy.

Incumbent Michael Coyle, 57, elected in 2002 to his first term on council, said he brings certain added value through experiences and expertise to council from his skill sets as director of facilities for Otterbein Portage Valley.

He has been involved for 30 years in administrative management. He said a main priority would be to continue to reduce internal costs.

He noted too that the city is experiencing an increase in tax revenue and an uptick in the number of jobs.

Julie Rubini, 52, named to council in November to replace Mr. Carr, has a background in communication, and she said she could create awareness of city activities “prior to rather than after the fact.” She is founder of Claire’s Day, a children’s book festival at the Maumee Branch Library.

As someone who is naturally positive and forward thinking, Mrs. Rubini, 52, said she strives to find ways to make improvements.

“I don’t have any major issues. As a community we do very well,” she said, but she added that she is concerned with the city’s budget, and said she would work to keep spending in line.

Tom Wagener, Jr., 54, a fourth-generation Maumee resident, is seeking his first term on council.

He was an emergency medical technician and firefighter on the Maumee Fire Division for 35 years, later serving as chief of paramedics, retiring in December.

Mr. Wagener said he would push for fiscal responsibility in an effort to lower spending and said he would like to see open government.

Cousin to the former mayor, he criticized council for spending “a lot of money to get rid of the mayor” and said the city was out of line in its spending on attorney fees last year.

If elected, he would support term limits for council and would encourage more people to run for office. “We want to give voters more of a choice,” he said.

Maria Zapiecki, 62, a paralegal, said she has been told that she doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting elected, considering her last name is unfamiliar to voters and that she has lived in Maumee for only 15 years. People, she said, have told her, “You don’t have a good Maumee name. You weren’t born here.”

She formerly lived in a part of Toledo that was in the Maumee Schools district.

She ran unsuccessfully for Maumee council in 2005.

Ms. Zapiecki, who said she has worked on several local, state, and national campaigns for candidates, wants to address the city’s spending habits.

“We have a deficit right now. I think the spending has been not real smart and I think that different people have talked about cutting spending,” she said, but said she wouldn’t be in favor of lowering spending by eliminating quality-of-life community events.

She said she couldn’t believe how council handled the removal of Mayor Wagener. “Six people voted him out,” she said, noting the popular mayor “did a great job.” The state Ethics Commission had issued a public reprimand, but then council pursued the matter to the point of booting him out after voters, aware of the matter, re-elected Mr. Wagener, she said.

Mr. Schafer objects to the number of years some officials serve on council. “I’m running for council to give voters a choice when they go to the polls this year. Like everybody else, I love our historic downtown and the excellent services our city provides whether police, fire, or public works. When I looked for a place to start my business, I chose Uptown Maumee and invested hundreds of thousands of my dollars to make it a success. That was 15 years ago. So why am I running? Well, despite all the good in this city, there are some things that are very wrong.”

Maumee has had annual deficits of more than $1 million for years, he said, blaming council. “No disrespect here, but facts are facts,” he said in an email.

He said council overspent on legal bills that totaled more than $440,000 in 2012. “Adding in the settlement for Mayor Wagener, those expenses climbed to nearly $600,000 last year.”

He contends council has knowingly made bad choices and should accept responsibility for the deficit that could result in cuts to city services or an increase in taxes.

Mayor Carr said a $1.6 million deficit was projected for 2013, but since he became mayor, a number of cuts have been made, and the deficit likely will be closer to $1 million at the end of the year with $900,000 of that amount attributed to the Maumee Municipal Court.

The city’s A and B funds, when combined, amount to a slight profit; the funds total about $20 million, Mayor Carr said.

Maumee’s biggest challenges financially include funding reductions from Lucas County and Ohio and a decline in interest rates, reducing revenue from city investments; those losses add up to $1.1 million, Mr. Carr said.

The switch made to an in-house attorney will result in $100,000 in savings, he said. Legal fees last year included $150,000 for a workers’ compensation attorney, but the mayor said he has made changes to significantly reduce that expense.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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