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City team includes 2 top union officials

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Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins’ complete city leadership team was revealed Friday and includes two high-ranking union officials, one of whom ran for mayor last year, while the other once was city council president.



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Alan Cox, a longtime city employee and union president who ran for mayor last year as an independent but was knocked out in the primary with 382 votes, was tapped by Mayor Collins as commissioner of housing.

Mr. Cox has spent more than 23 years as a city neighborhood specialist and has been president of Local 2058 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees for 10 years.

He was also on Mr. Collins’ transition team labor committee.

Mark Sobczak, vice president of Teamsters Local 20, starts Jan. 10 as the city’s commissioner of human resources.

Human resources was run by a director-level employee in past administrations, but has now been downgraded to a commissioner reporting to Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt.

Mr. Sobczak is the second former city councilman hired by Mr. Collins, who was himself elected twice as a district councilman.

Mayor Collins had been president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association for the final 10 years of his 27-year career as a Toledo police officer.

Former Toledo councilman George Sarantou started Friday as the city’s new finance director.

Mr. Collins previously announced the city’s new directors, and he released a list of all commissioners Friday.

Mr. Sobczak served 3½ years on Toledo City Council until June, 2009, when he abruptly resigned with six months left in his term.

He had been elected on the same Democratic “B-team” wave that swept Mayor Carty Finkbeiner back into office in 2006.

At the time of his council resignation, Mr. Sobczak said the “dual demands” of his responsibilities to the city on one hand and to his family and his job as Local 20’s vice president forced him to choose.

In 2009, his union salary was $83,975.

Lisa Ward, the city’s new public information officer, could not immediately provide salaries for Mr. Cox or Mr. Sobczak. Ms. Ward is paid $65,000 annually.

Commissioners typically make $52,000 to $77,000 annually, plus benefits.

According to the 2014 proposed budget, the salaries of the law, finance, public utilities, and inspection directors will be $92,354.

The director of public service will be paid $92,355; the police chief, $106,799, and the fire chief $112,072.

The chief of staff’s salary will be $93,115.

Mr. Sobczak did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Cox said he did not know his new salary. He said re-establishing good relationships with community development corporations is among his priorities.

The mayor said he has confidence in both men.

“It is not uncommon for private industry to reach into the leadership of private-sector unions and move them into management,” Mayor Collins said. “Mark Sobczak brings with him a talent we need. The transition team said we needed a labor ombudsman. … Businesses are somewhat resistant to coming to Toledo because there is a reputation that unions run everything, which is not true.”

Mr. Collins has promised a better relationship with city unions, most of which supported his candidacy.

Former Mayor Mike Bell drew unions’ ire for forcing contract concessions in 2010 and later supporting Senate Bill 5, state legislation weakening public unions’ bargaining rights that Ohio Gov. John Kasich backed but was defeated at referendum as Issue 2.

Mr. Sobczak succeeds Ellen Grachek, Mayor Bell’s human resources director, a former city councilman who will continue as a city attorney.

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

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