Former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell speaks at a StartUp Toledo meeting. He called for unity among Toledo residents on Thursday.
Mike Bell declared a no-bashing zone Thursday evening as the former mayor gave his first extended public talk in Toledo since leaving office.
Positivity was Mr. Bell’s watchword from the start.
“I just want you to know there’s not going to be any Collins-bashing in here,” Mr. Bell said to a gathering of more than 50 at the joenstas’ gallery, 18 N. St. Clair St. in the Warehouse District, referring to Mayor D. Michael Collins, who defeated Mr. Bell’s re-election bid last year. “If you’re waiting for that, it’s not going to occur.
“I always want to stay on high ground,” Mr. Bell said.
“The bottom line is Toledo needs to succeed,” he said. “You don’t run that hard and lose and not have some feelings on it. You have to be able to move on in a very civil way.”
The former mayor addressed the monthly gathering of StartUp Toledo, formed about three years ago to build a “networking community” among entrepreneurs, innovators, and the creatively inclined, co-founder Gene Powell said.
In a wide-ranging, informal talk, Mr. Bell spoke of what he’s been doing the last eight weeks — a road trip south, ending in Key West, during which he was recognized wherever he stopped — and of his record as mayor and offered his view of leadership.
He said he had no plans to move from Toledo, “a valuable jewel,” and called on the business community to develop a consensus on its priorities.
Mr. Bell said city leaders will listen, because they realize the city’s treasury depends on businesses doing well.
“You all control the direction of the city,” Mr. Bell said. “The problem is that most of you don’t know that.”
In an interview afterward, Mr. Bell said, “I’ve been having a good time. I’m at peace. I’m not bitter. I’m not mad. I really want to see him do well. I know what I did and what I didn’t do. You always have to be true to yourself.”
After the talk, Mr. Bell said he “probably” would be involved in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. As to who will receive his support, “that’s going to be undisclosed at this time,” Mr. Bell said.
The politically unaffiliated former mayor was criticized during the campaign for his close relationship with Republican Gov. John Kasich and his support of legislation and a subsequent ballot issue that would have weakened public union bargaining rights.
He told the gathering that he’d embarked on a national business consulting venture.
Afterward he added, “I’m just sort of feeling out whether I want to do that. Whatever I do next. ... It’s got to be fun. If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it. Finances is second. I’ve got to be able to help people.”
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