Toledo Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins’ first major appointment will place internationally known Baldemar Velasquez in a seat on the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority — which is considered the most powerful outside agency to which the mayor and the Lucas County commissioners install board members.
“I believe he has always exhibited excellent leadership, including when he was a trustee for the University of Toledo,” Mr. Collins said. “The university benefited from him as a real value-added to that board.”
Mr. Velasquez is founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, which organizes migrant workers. If confirmed by Toledo City Council for the board of directors seat, he would succeed Margarita De Leon. Her term expired July 31.
Mr. Collins promised to produce all of his nominees for boards such as the port authority, and also city directors, for confirmation hearings before council.
“He will appear before council, and they will have the final say,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Velasquez said he wants to explore how agriculture could be helped by the port.
Among the issues before the city and the port authority is a proposal from the Treece family of Sylvania Township to take over and operate Toledo Express Airport, which the port now manages under a city lease.
Dock Treece, 63, and his sons, Dock David Treece, 26, and Benjamin Treece, 25, partners in Treece Investment Advisory Corp., say they are rolling out their privatization idea in pieces to give the public time to absorb the complex issues.
Mr. Velasquez said he is unsure of their idea.
“Frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of details on what their thinking or what their plan would be other than I saw they are looking at a maintenance facility,” he said. “I want to see the details of how that sparks other economic interests. Not knowing any details, it’s very difficult to say let’s gift wrap this facility for them.”
City council in August effectively blocked Mayor Mike Bell’s request to appoint a new Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority director. He had selected Mark Urrutia, agent and registered representative of Urrutia Insurance Agency/Skyway Financial Group LLC, as his next appointment.
Councilman Adam Martinez asked to hold the appointment until after the mayoral election this year. Councilman Lindsay Webb supported Mr. Martinez’s idea, calling it a “disservice to the community” to allow Mayor Bell to appoint a member to the port board when he might be unseated.
Ms. Webb also said she was concerned about the dearth of women on the board, which without Ms. De Leon now has two women among its 13 directors: Sharon Speyer and Andrea R. Price. Councilman Joe McNamara, who also ran for mayor this year, supported holding up the appointment. He said the same thing was done in 2009 when council held up a request from then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
Ms. Webb said she would support Mr. Velasquez.
Mr. Collins said he did not opposed allowing a vote on Mayor Bell’s pick for the seat and that he would have considered reappointing Ms. De Leon, but she did not ask him to remain on the port board.
Port board member Jerry Chabler said Mr. Velasquez will do “an outstanding job.”
“He’s very active in the community, not only in the Hispanic community. He has many contacts that would be very useful to the port authority. He has good business contacts and he also has the social contacts to make things happen,” Mr. Chabler said.
Mr. Velasquez becomes the second port director nominated this month.
On Dec. 3, the Lucas County Commissioners appointed George Tucker, the executive secretary of the Greater Northwest Ohio Central Labor Council of AFL-CIO, to a seat vacated by the Oct. 13 death of Richard Gabel, an International Longshoremen’s Association leader.
Mr. Tucker was appointed to complete a term that expires July 31, while Mr. Velasquez’s appointment, if confirmed, would be through July 31, 2017. The city and county each appoint six port directors outright, while the 13th seat is jointly appointed by the two jurisdictions.
Port directors are not paid.