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Copeland's long career ends with tears, tributes

Amid two standing ovations and tears from colleagues, Lucas County Commissioner Bill Copeland thanked friends and supporters who came to honor him yesterday during the last meeting of his decades-long political career.

Mr. Copeland, 80, last month announced his resignation but then waffled on the date as late as last week. Yesterday, he said it was hard to leave, but the health problems he's suffered since April were forcing him to leave a job he loves. “I couldn't hardly sign [the resignation] papers,” he said, laughing.

He told the group crowded into the commissioners' meeting room he's been honored to serve them during a political career that dates back to 1973, when he was elected to Toledo City Council.

He's spent the last 12 years as a commissioner and would have liked to finish the last two years of his term. But a two-week hospital stay and dialysis treatments that began recently were enough to convince him it was time to retire, he said. “I've had a complete life,” Mr. Copeland said. “I can't think of anything I would have done different. To be able to serve the public is an honor.”

Sandy Isenberg, president of the commissioners, broke into tears shortly after talking about her respect for Mr. Copeland. True to form, she quickly broke the mood with a joke, saying, “I love him and I'm going to miss him, but I'm going to see him around because I'm hitting the bricks in a few weeks too.”

Ms. Isenberg, a commissioner since 1985, was defeated last month by Republican Maggie Thurber.

Commissioner Harry Barlos said Mr. Copeland was a true public servant - a selfless politician dedicated to helping people.

He said losing Mr. Copeland and Ms. Isenberg at roughly the same time would be difficult for the board of commissioners. “What we're losing is a massive amount of historical knowledge between Bill and Sandy,” Mr. Barlos said.

Mr. Barlos is pushing for a replacement for Mr. Copeland as soon as possible. He'd like the central committee of the county's Democratic Party to meet this month to name the next commissioner so the board will be at full strength when the annual budget is passed by the end of January.

Democratic Party Chairman Paula Ross said the holidays may preclude the party's central committee from meeting until early January.

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