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Published: Friday, 9/12/2008

New term sought for Chabler on port board

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA AND MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to reappoint Jerry Chabler - a former Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority member who was a persistent critic of the agency - to its board five years after he resigned midterm.

Mr. Finkbeiner plans to ask Toledo City Council to confirm the appointment. Council President Mark Sobczak said yesterday that he was unaware of the appointment request, which likely would come before council for a vote on Sept. 23.

"We will review his appointment just like we review any other," Mr. Sobczak said.

Mr. Chabler, 73, of Sylvania would replace Bruce Baumhower, who has served on the port board since 1999.

On Tuesday, council confirmed Mayor Finkbeiner's selection of Bernard "Pete" Culp to succeed Doni Miller, who also had been on the board since 1999.

Chabler Chabler
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

Mayor Finkbeiner did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday and instead released a statement through his spokesman.

"Pete Culp and Jerry Chabler are two of the most assertive board members I have ever observed," Mr. Finkbeiner's state-ment said.

"They are both intelligent, do their homework, and are unafraid to ask the hard questions. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is a very important agency, has some very talented board members, and needs some challenging voices."

William Carroll, the port board's chairman, said he had heard Mr. Chabler was being considered by the mayor for appointment to the port board.

"I have not worked with Jerry before, so I guess we would have to wait and see," Mr. Carroll said. "We have quite a few appointments coming down, so it will be a different board."

Six of the port authority's 13 board members are appointed by the county commissioners, six are appointed by the city of Toledo, and one - the seat held by Vice Chairman G. Opie Rollison - is a joint city-county appointment.

The county commissioners have three seats to fill.

In July, the commissioners publicly solicited volunteers to succeed Dennis Duffey.

The commissioners also must decide whether to reappoint A. Bailey Stanbery, whose term expired July 31.

Port board member Jeri Milstead submitted her resignation last month to the commissioners because she is moving out of town following her retirement as dean of the University of Toledo's college of nursing.

Commissioner Ben Konop last night said the county is not ready to announce its appointments.

The port authority runs the region's seaport, train station, two airports, and business-loan programs.

Mr. Chabler said he and the mayor discussed the appointment.

"He asked me if I'd be interested in going back on the board. I talked to a lot of people about it and decided to go back on," Mr. Chabler said.

"I think with everything's that's happening with the economy, not only in Lucas County, but throughout the country, hopefully I'll be able to make some contribution to help turn that thing around."

Mr. Chabler noted that he is a former chairman of the port board's airport committee.

"Obviously, the airport needs some work as it relates to passenger traffic," he said. "Hopefully, I would like to help turn [around] the lack of passenger service out of Toledo.''

He also mentioned that Mayor Finkbeiner has economic development goals he would like to see through to fruition.

The last time he was on the board, Mr. Chabler was a fervent critic of the agency and of then-President James Hartung.

Mr. Hartung was fired Aug. 1 by a unanimous vote of the 13-member port board because of an "inappropriate" relationship with a lobbyist who was contracted to work with the port and several other public agencies.

But Mr. Chabler is not looking back.

"That's yesterday's breakfast as it relates to the situation with Jim Hartung," Mr. Chabler said.

"I know Jim very well. From a technical standpoint, there probably wasn't anybody better in the Western world as far as knowing the seaport and the functions of a port authority.

"I'm not going to rehash that. My focus is what I can contribute as an individual member along with the other members and with the new president, whoever that may be."

Mr. Chabler said his top goal would be to help pass the port authority's levy on the November ballot.

The port authority collects a 0.4-mill levy on county property owners, which is on the Nov. 4 ballot for a five-year renewal.

Mr. Chabler, a longtime Democratic Party fund-raiser, successfully campaigned to reject the levy in 1998, amid allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending by port authority officials.

Months later, he was named by Mr. Finkbeiner to the port authority board to fill an unexpired term and - saying he'd secured promises of reform from the agency - campaigned for the levy's passage.

In 2001, he was appointed by Mr. Finkbeiner to a full four-year term.

Mr. Chabler resigned from the port board in October, 2003, nearly two years before the end of his four-year term.

Mr. Chabler said at the time that he wanted to spend more time with his two daughters and seven grandchildren.

"I have enjoyed my time I have spent with my two daughters and my grandkids," he said.

Gov. Ted Strickland named Mr. Chabler to the Ohio State Racing Commission in April.

Mr. Chabler also served on the Ohio State Lottery Commission and as executive director of the Ohio Employment Compensation Board under Gov. Richard Celeste in the 1980s and early 1990s.

He was appointed to the Toledo Regional Board of Review by Gov. John Gilligan in 1973 and was reappointed by Mr. Gilligan's successor, Gov. James Rhodes, in 1979.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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