D. Michael Collins promised that becoming mayor on the evening of Jan. 2 will not change him.
“I am going to be the same person I am today,” Mr. Collins said after arriving at One Government Center at about 8 a.m. Wednesday for the first time as mayor-elect, rather than the councilman from South Toledo.
Nine hours after winning the election to unseat Mayor Mike Bell, Mr. Collins was back at his job as district councilman, vetting legislation to regulate the sale of cats and dogs in the city.
He decided to wait Wednesday for at least a day or two before talking with his campaign team about transitioning from the Bell administration to a Collins administration.
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Removing the “Collins Cares” yards signs and minibillboards was his priority on Wednesday, and there was a council-agenda review meeting at 2 p.m.
“We are going to get this city cleaned up,” Mr. Collins said in his 21st floor council office.
By 9 a.m., more than 25 telephone messages were left on his personal cell phone, and it rang incessantly for the following hour — presumably from congratulatory well-wishers, he said.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s office, just one flight up, was empty.
Mayor Bell was not in the building as of 4 p.m., and he was not conducting media interviews for the rest of the week, city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said.
Mr. Collins said he was confident about his victory over Mayor Bell from the beginning of the race. The tougher challenge was getting past the primary, which he did by besting two well-known Democrats: fellow Councilman Joe McNamara and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez.
“A true independent who was grossly underfunded, having no paid staff, not using a recognizable public relations firm, all justifies the statement: David versus Goliath,” Mr. Collins said.
He declined to talk about who might be placed in key positions throughout the city, such as a chief of staff or various director positions overseeing departments such as public service, public utilities, or neighborhoods.
It’s clear that many top Bell administration officials won’t be part of a Collins administration.
He said he would not hire two top officials who worked under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner: Bob Reinbolt, the former chief of staff, and John Bibish, who was once finance director. Both men supported Mr. Collins over Mayor Bell.
Fire Chief Luis Santiago would likely be part of the Collins administration.
“I am very comfortable with the fire chief,” Mr. Collins said. “I think he has made tremendous strides with [Toledo Firefighters] Local 92.”
Police chief’s future
The police chief’s future was uncertain.
Mr. Collins voted against confirming Police Chief Derrick Diggs when he retired in March only to be rehired the next day by Mayor Bell. Chief Diggs retired on March 21 because he had reached the maximum number of years that police officers and firefighters are allowed to remain in Ohio’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, DROP.
“Quite frankly, Chief Diggs will have to decide if he wants to be part of the Collins administration,” Mr. Collins said. “The northwest district station will be reopened. That is not negotiable.”
Chief Diggs refused to answer questions on Tuesday night after Mayor Bell conceded defeat and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The mayor-elect plans to make other changes, particularly in the city’s police department, neighborhoods department, public service, and public utilities.
“I will be very active in dividing this city into eight sectors,” Mr. Collins said. “There will be a code inspector, a nuisance inspector, and community service [police] officer for each.”
Among the plans
Mr. Collins wants to start an early retirement incentive program to slash the “bloated” management ranks for the city.
He also plans to move forward with a proposal to make the city’s 0.75 percent income tax, which is up for renewal by voters every four years, permanent.
He contends that would settle uncertainty in the bond markets and result in a slightly better bond rating, and thus lower interest rates. To get voters to give up their four-year oversight of the temporary tax, Mr. Collins proposes a slight reduction from the current total of 2.25 percent to 2.2 percent. Such a move would cost Toledo $3.6 million a year, but Mr. Collins said growth in the economy would offset the loss and that Toledo would benefit from the positive signal the reduction would send to the business community.
The Marina District will be another priority early in 2014.
“I plan to reach out to Dashing Pacific Group through the Regional Growth Partnership and help them develop a plan for the Marina District,” Mr. Collins said.
Mayor Bell and council approved selling 69 acres of the east-side waterfront property to the company for $3.8 million in 2011. More than two years later, the land is still vacant.
Mr. Finkbeiner, a Collins supporter, said Mr. Collins’ stance on neighborhoods, homeless shelters, crime, and urban decay resonated with voters.
“The bottom line is that it turned around at some point in time — just around the primary — where people, rather than trips to China or budget deficits, realized that Mike Bell had no plan for the next four years,” Mr. Finkberiner said. “It was like, ‘We did a great job and trust us, we will do a great job for the next four years.’ But Collins over and over brought out what he would do to stimulate neighborhoods and make streets safer.”
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat, who directed Mayor Bell’s transition into office four years ago along with Ms. Sorgenfrei, said he would direct each city department to write a summary of ongoing projects, listing deadlines, to provide to Mr. Collins’ transition team once it is created.
Mr. Herwat said staff members in the mayor’s office were understanding.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “This happens in politics, and when you take a position like this you have to learn to live with it.”
He promised a smooth transition, noting that no one would remove the “D” from keyboards — which alluded to the removal of “W” keys by President Bill Clinton’s aides when they left the White House in January, 2001, to make way for George W. Bush’s administration.
“I will pledge to him to make sure it is a smooth transition,” Mr. Herwat said.
Additionally, the Bell administration is required by city charter to produce a balanced budget proposal by Nov. 15, a fact that is usually overshadowed by mayoral elections every four years.
“We are proud of what we accomplished in four years,” Mr. Herwat said. “We turned this city around. People decided to go in another direction. You have to respect the democratic process.”