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Published: Friday, 12/29/2006

Konop invokes past during swearing-in

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ben Konop is sworn in as Lucas County's newest commissioner by Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals Judge William Skow as his parents, Alan and Barbara Konop, watch. Ben Konop is sworn in as Lucas County's newest commissioner by Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals Judge William Skow as his parents, Alan and Barbara Konop, watch.
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In a packed room full of supporters, elected officials, and Lucas County staff, newly sworn-in Commissioner Ben Konop invoked a name of the past to share his vision of the future.

Elected by a significant margin in November, Mr. Konop, 30, took his place yesterday on the Democratic-controlled board of county commissioners. An attorney, Mr. Konop said he hopes to emulate the progressive mind-set brought to Toledo at the beginning of the 20th century in the form of then-Mayor Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones.

"He was in a much different time and obviously a different position so it's not so much in the details of his administration, the minutia of what he did, but I think it's important to use him as a guide to challenge the status quo and not be afraid to seek change," Mr. Konop said after his speech.

"I'm a history major and am a big believer that out of history you can get a pretty good read on the future," he added. "By invoking Golden Rule, I think he can offer a guide for the community in the future."

In his speech to a captivated crowd, Mr. Konop referred to the former mayor, who served from 1897 until his death in 1904, as "our community's finest political leader." Specifically, Mr. Konop said much can be learned from the mayor's handling of the changes in Toledo's economy at the time to one predominantly focused on manufacturing.

"Jones' rule laid the groundwork for our community's prosperity. The first half of the 20th century, save, of course the depression, was a time of great growth, opportunity, and economic dynamism for us in northwest Ohio," Mr. Konop said in his speech.

"When Jones became mayor, our community was in the midst of transforming into a manufacturing hub and urban center for the Midwest," he continued. "Jones' guidance and values during this time of change set Toledo on a bountiful course. The policies of Golden Rule can be directly linked to the economic boom times our community experienced many years ago."

Mr. Konop said the county should look at how Mr. Jones transformed the community then and use it as a guide to move from an economy based solely on manufacturing into one that embraces technology.

"The vision of Golden Rule can also be linked to our community becoming an international beacon for progressive thought, culture, the arts, and strong social institutions," Mr. Konop said in his speech. "Today, as we embark on the 21st century, our community is once again in the midst of a transformation due to globalization and technology. Once again, we have the opportunity to set a new course for our community's direction."

Fellow county commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Pete Gerken said they were impressed by Mr. Konop's vision and looked forward to his passion when he joined the board. Mr. Gerken acknowledged that while the dynamics changed on the board when Republican Maggie Thurber left, the possibility for different visions did not.

"Ben sounds like he's progressive but don't look for us to agree entirely," he said. Mr. Gerken added that the board will continue to work toward establishing a stable place where people want to live.

Ms. Wozniak, who is the president of the three-member board, said Mr. Konop has the right vision to bring strength to the board. She added that his youth is welcomed because he will not be afraid to embrace issues such as technology and the needs of young people.

"I compliment the citizens of Lucas County for choosing one of the brightest young leaders," she said.

Mr. Konop also applauded voters, calling his election "a statement that the citizens of Lucas County are not afraid of change, and indeed ready to embrace it."

Also sworn in yesterday as a Lucas County Common Pleas judge was Gene Zmuda. A Republican, Judge Zmuda was appointed by Gov. Bob Taft to take the seat vacated by former Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik, a Democrat who won a seat on the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals.

Judge Zmuda, who served 10 years on Toledo City Council and three years as a Toledo Municipal Court judge, took the oath in front of his family, friends, and fellow Common Pleas judges. Toledo Municipal Court Judge Francis X. Gorman presided over the swearing-in ceremony.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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