For eight years as mayor of Toledo, Carty Finkbeiner hasn't done anything quietly, according to conventional wisdom.
His farewell gala Thursday night at the Valentine Theatre - 18 days before he leaves office - will be no exception.
At the event dubbed an “All-American Salute to an All-American City,” Mr. Finkbeiner will pay tribute to 58 people and organizations that have, as he put it, “contributed to the renaissance of the city of Toledo,” adding: “They have dared to dream.”
The 58 will receive from Mr. Finkbeiner a Spirit of Toledo Award. “I want to see more commitment from private-sector leaders in Toledo, and one way to encourage that is to recognize those who have gone above and beyond the norm in our city,” he said.
The list includes arts and humanities, social service and justice, neighborhood revitalization, community outreach organizations, public institutions, and individuals.
Mr. Finkbeiner said he hatched the idea last winter and asked his department directors to submit names of worthy organizations and individuals. A smaller group of key aides made the final selections, he said.
The criteria for selection were brief, according to the mayor: “Is the city better today because of what these individuals or organizations have done?”
The list was whittled down to about 55 a month ago, and three were added in the last week or so, he said.
Two of the honorees, Bill Booth, president and chief executive officer of the downtown science center COSI, and Don Monroe, executive director of River East Economic Revitalization Corp., said they are excited about receiving the award.
“Mr. Finkbeiner has been so supportive of COSI from the initial concept,” Mr. Booth said. “I think he truly understood the impact COSI could have on this community.”
COSI Toledo, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary in March, has had 1.75 million visitors to date, Mr. Booth said. The center is housed in the former Portside Festival Marketplace building, a failed downtown redevelopment project.
Mr. Monroe's organization has been one of the key backers of the successful Docks restaurants project and the soon-to-be built Marina District, both along the formerly undeveloped east bank of the Maumee River.
He said he is most proud of another River East project - converting 15 acres of brownfields into an industrial park and convincing J&S Industrial Machinery and Bowser-Morner to relocate there instead of outside the city. He believes two factors aided the effort.
“We had the good fortune of a strong national economy and the right person being elected our first strong mayor,” Mr. Monroe said.
Mr. Finkbeiner said the gala will be the last significant event of his tenure, during which he won two tight mayoral races. “It's not my [affair]. I don't want it to be that,” he said. “This is just a way of saying thank you.”
Nevertheless, said Mr. Monroe, the mayor should be recognized for what he believes is the man's most significant impact on the community: Similar polls taken before Mr. Finkbeiner became mayor, in 1993 and several months ago, show that the number of people satisfied with living in Toledo has jumped from 42 percent to 78 percent. “That's his legacy,” Mr. Monroe said.
Mr. Finkbeiner said the event will be paid for with private donations and leftover funds from the Marina District ballot and All-America City designation campaigns. About $10,000 has been contributed to date, which should cover the costs, he said.
The honorees include:
Arts and humanities
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoo, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, The Toledo Symphony, COSI Toledo, Toledo Cultural Arts Center, and It's Reigning Frogs.
Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Helping Hands of St. Louis, Central City Ministries, St. Paul's Community Center, Fair Housing Center, Old Newsboys, Cherry Street Mission, and Sparrow's Nest.
City of Toledo Urban Beautification, Dirty Dozen, Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity, NorthRiver Development Corp., River East Economic Revitalization Corp., Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence, Neighborhoods in Partnership, Inc., and Toledo LISC.
ProMedica Health System, Mercy Health Partners, MCO Foreign Medical Missions, Neighborhood Health Association, Lucas County Veterans Services, HCR Manor Care, DaimlerChrysler, Libbey, Inc., and Jamie Farr-Kroger Classic.
Lucas County commissioners, Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Team Toledo.
Randy Alexander; Betty Amison; Bob, Dick, and Tom Anderson; Jim and Pat Appold; David K. Ball; John Robinson Block; Susan G. Botek; Alvina Costilla; the Rev. Martin Donnelly, Jamie Farr.
Eric Hillenbrand and Jim Zaleski; Glen Hiner; U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur; Harry Kessler; Karen Landis; Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell.
James Murray; Pat Nicholson; Dr. Richard Ruppert; John Shousher; U.S. Sen. George Voinovich; Ben Williams; Tim Yenrick, and Elizabeth Zepf.