Diverse crowd heralds Collins’ inaugural event

Former opponents among hundreds attending party at SeaGate Centre

3/1/2014
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mike Bell lauded Mayor Collins for his handling of a number of issues to hit the city this year, including several snowstorms and the deaths of two firefighters.
Mike Bell lauded Mayor Collins for his handling of a number of issues to hit the city this year, including several snowstorms and the deaths of two firefighters.

An unlikely assemblage — consisting of labor leaders, businessmen, elected leaders, city workers, bankers, lawyers, and those who once opposed Toledo’s current mayor — turned out Friday night to rally behind the man and the city.

Four hundred people attended Mayor D. Michael Collins’ inaugural party at SeaGate Convention Centre downtown. The event adopted the mayor’s campaign slogan: “Collins Cares.”

“We will bring Toledo back to a position it has long sought to be,” the mayor said to the crowd after dinner. “We will be a gem of northwest Ohio.”

The mayor opened the event by presenting a key to the city to former Toledo Councilman Betty Shultz, who was his transition team’s honorary chairman.

“I urge all of you to support him and to step forward when he needs assistance,” Mrs. Shultz said.

Former Mayor Mike Bell — whom Mayor Collins handily defeated in November — and many of his campaign supporters showed up for the party.

Like others, the former mayor lauded Mayor Collins’ handling of the several snowstorms to hit the city this year, shepherding through a 2014 budget, and dealing with two Toledo firefighters’ deaths in an arson.

Sandra Drabik, left, and her husband, Mayor D. Michael Collins, present former Toledo Councilman Betty Shultz with a key to the city in honor of her 30-plus years of service.
Sandra Drabik, left, and her husband, Mayor D. Michael Collins, present former Toledo Councilman Betty Shultz with a key to the city in honor of her 30-plus years of service.

“I don’t think you can have division for a city to move forward,” Mr. Bell said.

The two men showed no animosity, shaking hands and hugging before the dinner.

Mayor Bell was many business leaders’ preferred candidate and had the support of groups such as the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and Toledo Board of Realtors. Mayor Collins, on the other hand, had the support of nearly all labor-union locals in the city. The gala Friday night brought both sides together.

Linda Moss, regional president of Toledo Edison, said Mayor Collins has been very receptive to businesses’ needs.

Yehia “John” Shousher, a leader of the local Muslim community, said he was grateful the mayor had adopted the “caring” theme.

“I am also asking him to continue caring about the potholes,” Mr. Shousher quipped.

Fifty people attended a VIP reception before the event, which cost $1,000 a couple, while dinner itself cost $100 a plate. Matt Zaleski, a Collins campaign spokesman, said the money raised would be used to pay for events “taxpayers couldn’t and shouldn’t fund,” such as an officers’ reception during Navy Week, should Toledo host such an event during the next four years as it did last year.

Mayor Collins said some would be donated to charity, although he declined to identify an organization or cause.

Will Lucas, a small-business owner who campaigned for Mayor Bell’s re-election, said Mayor Collins had selected a good team, but urged him to concentrate on assisting small businesses. “It’s all about small business,” Mr. Lucas said.

Mr. Collins addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for their support and laying the credit on his team and city employees.

He remarked how many have stated that difficult things had been “thrown at him” since taking office.

“They haven’t been thrown at me,” he said. “They have been thrown at the dedicated men and women serving this city.”

He addressed the difficulty the city faced with the Jan. 26 deaths of Toledo Fire Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.

“The holes in our hearts and the experience of being in the hospital that night are not definable,” Mayor Collins said.

The inaugural party was originally set for Feb. 1, but was postponed after the fatal fire for nearly four weeks.

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