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Harvard conference gives Collins fresh ideas and contacts

Mayor-elect confident workshop will help his effectiveness

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    Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said one topic discussed — and dear to him — was muni-cipal customer service.

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    D. Michael Collins

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Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said one topic discussed — and dear to him — was muni-cipal customer service.

Enlarge | Buy This Image

Inching closer to his first day running the city, Toledo Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins returned flush with ideas from a conference at Harvard University designed for new mayors.

“The Harvard experience was an intense one. There was an enormous amount of material covered,” he said.

“I truly believe the ideas shared and the connections made will help me be a more effective mayor.”

Toledo’s mayor-elect was among 26 who attended the biennial “Seminar on Transition and Leadership for Newly Elected Mayors” co-hosted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization for cities with populations exceeding 30,000, invited Mr. Collins to the event, which started Dec. 3 and ended Friday.

“The presentations were invaluable for an individual going into the office of mayor,” he said. “I would actually think an incumbent mayor after one term would have a real learning opportunity by attending this same conference.”

The sessions included transitioning from the campaign to City Hall; behavioral science and policy; jobs, economic development, and competitiveness; the millennial generation’s political attitudes; challenges and opportunities in public safety; public schools; technology, and “the data-driven city.”

Mr. Collins said Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland, a presenter for the Transitioning to City Hall session, talked about that city’s troubles with its 311 system.

“He defined it as dysfunctional in his community,” Mr. Collins said. “We have no 311 system — one consolidated service.”

The mayor-elect, who plans to announce his cabinet members Sunday, said his desire to improve Toledo’s customer service was reinvigorated by some of the sessions and the conversations he had with other newly elected mayors.

“We have taken great strides in handling some of our customer-service response in public utilities, but we still have a long way to go,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Collins and his wife, Sandy Drabik, are moving into a new home on Island Avenue, and plan to sell their current house at 2235 Heatherwood Dr.

The mayor-elect said a city water-department representative had told him he could not have his name on the water accounts for both homes at the same time, and questioned whether that was actual city policy.

“Having just purchased a new home and in the process of changing all the utilities, the least customer-friendly service was our water department, and these are policy-driven, not personnel-driven, issues,” he said.

“I think based on my personal experience as a councilman, Call City Hall is totally dysfunctional, and that was reinforced as a result of this trip when I was able to listen to Christopher Corcoran, the deputy director of data analytics for the city of New York.”

Other participants included Nan Whaley of Dayton; John McNally, Youngstown; Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh; John Eberhart, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Martin Walsh, Boston.

Institute Director Trey Grayson says the seminar was an opportunity for new city leaders to engage with and learn from academics, policy experts, and political practitioners on the urgent issues and complex challenges of governing today.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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