As he introduced his "farewell address," Sylvania Councilman Mark Bula readily admitted that it's not his style to leave without some color.
Rustling papers quieted. Ears perked up. It seemed as though the room took a collective breath in anticipation of the remarks from the councilman who has shown a flair for color during his stint on council. His resignation is effective today.
He admitted that he at first was tempted to address his detractors and then thought he might address his accomplishments and unfinished business.
But in the end, he decided to issue a challenge to council.
"Step out, be creative, stop with the focus on maintaining that which already exists. No one should aspire to be part of the status quo or go-along to get-along."
Then Mr. Bula added some extra color, saying that Sylvania has lost its edge. "It lacks an identity to rally around. The brain drain is happening not only in northwest Ohio, but right here in Sylvania as well," he said.
"Debate calculated risks - do not seek the same path as everyone else. Maintaining what already exists may feel safe but is never sustainable."
The immediate response was "thank you for your efforts" from Mayor Craig Stough, but following the meeting it was evident that not everyone embraced the colorful comments.
Mayor Stough didn't agree with Mr. Bula's remarks. "I think Sylvania is in great shape and we're moving forward. We have several studies going on. We have lots of improvements planned. I think we are doing a fine job, and to quote one of Mr. Bula's articles, 'Sylvania is in the best shape of any of the Toledo suburbs,' and that is what I agree with."
As a councilman, Mr. Bula pushed for the development of a "vision" for the city and championed issues such as lower taxes and open government. When he resigned, he stated that the measures were accomplished in 2006 due to his efforts and efforts of other forward-thinking council members." He is moving out of state.
Councilman Keith Haddad said, "Sylvania is a great community for young and old, families and singles," adding that "I feel we have been cutting edge before he came here and will be after he leaves. We have always looked at and implemented new ideas."
Sylvania is a thriving city, not a city in decay, Mr. Haddad said, noting that the city has attracted several new businesses in recent months.
Councilman John Borell, Jr., commented that the city "has undertaken several measures recently to ensure that Sylvania is both dynamic and prepared to meet the challenges of an older suburb."
Council has "taken internal steps, such as establishing financial and debt policies and capital budgeting, to external steps like the Gateway project and our visioning process, to
provide a vision for the future of Sylvania," said Mr. Borell.
Councilman Doug Haynam praised Mr. Bula, saying that he "brought a different perspective to our council that was based on a view of the world that was entrepreneurial, youth oriented, and focused on expanding our future as well as protecting what we have."
As a result, Mr. Bula "was willing to risk some of the things that we have been comfortable with in Sylvania in the calculated risk that we could make Sylvania better. His visioning initiative, which forced us all to look to the future, was a tangible result of that philosophy," Mr. Haynam said.
Councilman Mark Luetke, who has supported the visioning process, said, "Sylvania's leaders need a vision - I've always believed that, and I think that is what Mark was trying to say. One of the city's greatest strength is its prudent management, which has delivered our citizens outstanding services with no increase in taxes for many years."
Mr. Luetke noted that Sylvania is in friendly competition with other suburban communities for new residents, good-paying jobs, school enrollment, and that Mr. Bula was right in that "we do need to make this community stand apart. The current council is making good strides to move in that direction."