Mike Bell said he would leave his ego out of his new job as mayor and motorists could be the first ones to see signs of him making good on that promise.
Aside from beginning the massive task of handling a predicted $40 million general fund deficit, Mayor Bell on his first full day at work yesterday said he would replace the city's entry point signs with new ones that don't bear his name.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Bell doesn't intend to brand himself along with the city - something former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was criticized for doing.
"They will be replaced when we have people in the area and they will be replaced with a blue and gold 'Welcome to Toledo' sign with a rocket on it," Mr. Bell said after just five hours into his day yesterday.
"My name will not be on it, and it's about the city and it's about making sure that people know that this city is about us - it's not about any one individual. I think people know what my name is," he said.
The colors and the rocket logo are symbols of the University of Toledo, where Mr. Bell attended college.
UT officials said they loved the idea when Mayor Bell proposed it to UT President Lloyd Jacobs last week.
"We are delighted," Larry Burns, the university's vice presi-dent for external affairs, said. "I can't think of a better way to brand the city and the university."
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As he has said since defeating endorsed Democrat Keith Wilkowski in November, Mr. Bell denied he was nervous yesterday about the difficult tasks ahead, which some might call daunting.
"You can't go out and be nervous and be able to do things under control. You have to be focused. You have to keep understanding what has to happen and make it happen," he said.
The first order of business for the Bell administration will be "damage assessment."
"Although we had a pretty good transition with the former mayor, we need to find some things out on our own," Mr. Bell said. "So the first order of business is actually figuring out where we are sitting, not only financially, but with the issues people need to have addressed fairly rapidly."
Mr. Bell warned Toledoans not to expect instant fixes to the city's troubles.
"We didn't get here in 2 weeks, 10 weeks, or even a year," Mr. Bell said. "We got here over a large period of time. I think that for some issues, they'll be able to turn them around fairly rapidly and for some others, it's going to take a while."
Among those issues will be Toledo's trash and recyclable collection.
There has been a large number of complaints to the city about the long period without pickup for some neighborhoods, the shifting collection days after city-observed holidays, and the slowness of bulk pickup, such as discarded live-cut Christmas trees.
"That was one of my number one priorities," Mr. Bell said. "We started on that this morning. In fact, we will get focused on that for about a week … because we know that, that for most people right now is a number one concern."
Mr. Bell said his staff would look at other cities like Columbus that use shifting collection days in order to improve Toledo's operation.
Mr. Bell arrived at work yesterday about 9:20 a.m. after an early phone interview with WSPD-AM 1370. Many of his staffers started their day before 7 a.m.
His senior staff - Stephen Herwat, deputy mayor for operations; Dean Monske, deputy mayor for external affairs, and Shirley Green, safety director - were in a meeting when the mayor arrived.
The new administration held its first full staff meeting at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Herwat said the Bell administration would develop efficient ways to send information to Toledo City Council and its president, Wilma Brown.
Mr. Bell's regular weekly staff meetings will be Mondays at
1:30 p.m. and last 1 1/2 hours. He promised to eliminate the weekly Wednesday morning meetings presided over by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner that sometimes kept directors and commissioners tied up for four hours.
"We are going to move in a totally different direction in terms of management style," Mr. Bell said during the staff meeting, which was attended by about 15 city directors. "My style is a little bit more laid-back, but I am extremely focused and what I am going to let you do is do your jobs."
While the team was meeting officially for the first time, One Government Center maintenance staff spent much of the day cleaning the mayoral suite, which included vacuuming dog hair left by Mr. Finkbeiner's pet, Scout, who was there nearly every day.
Mr. Bell also met with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) at 3 p.m. and later attended a fund-raiser for Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election that featured former President Bill Clinton. The event was at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg.
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