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Kapszukiewicz settles in to first day in mayor's office

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    Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz signs a proclamation to honor the late Harvey J. Steele. Steele, who died last week, worked with his on-air partner Gary Shores for WKKO-FM, 99.9 listeners for over 20 years, most recently on the Shores and Steele morning show on K-100.

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    Megan Robson, debt administrator in the city's department of finance, left, attends a meet and greet in the mayor's office with new mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, right.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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As Wade Kapszukiewicz walked down Huron Street on Wednesday after surveying damage from a burst pipe at the city’s engineering services division, a passerby called out from across the street.

“Are you the mayor?” the man shouted. 

Mr. Kapszukiewicz — less than 24 hours on the job — waved and nodded. 

“Good luck to you,” the man said.

For Mr. Kapszukiewicz, it was part of a packed first day in office, which also included meetings, media interviews, a memorial service, and meet-and-greets with city staff.

RELATED: Wade Kapszukiewicz officially sworn in as 58th mayor of Toledo

He began his day meeting with building-inspection staff at 8 a.m. at One Government Center downtown. It’s a division he said he wants to overhaul, and he already named a new commissioner, electrician Ken Fischer, to replace Julian Highsmith. Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the division has received many complaints, and one of his first moves will be to streamline the city’s building permit process.

“They feel a lot of pressure ... but it was a good talk,” he said.

His first action as mayor was signing a proclamation honoring Harvey Steele, a longtime Toledo radio broadcaster who died Dec. 28. Later, he delivered the proclamation at a public celebration of Mr. Steele’s life.

Next on tap was coffee and doughnuts with several members of the city’s staff and department heads, as well as a flurry of media interviews.

“I want to be known as a mayor who tries things,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said from his new office on the 22nd floor. “We can’t afford to be complacent. We can’t afford to sit back and let the world happen to us.”

Toledo police Chief George Kral stopped by to congratulate Mr. Kapszukiewicz and pledge an open line of communication between his department and the new administration. Mr. Kapszukiewicz called retaining Chief Kral the easiest personnel decision to make and has said he wants to work with the department to come up with creative strategies to reduce gun violence in Toledo.

“I think he brings a freshness into the position, and I’m looking forward to working with him and his administration to move Toledo forward,” Chief Kral said.

In between the hustle and bustle, Mr. Kapszukiewicz began to unpack his belongings and hung up a piece of artwork. He searched the drawers of his new desk in case his predecessor, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, left him a letter, but he did not find one Wednesday.

Former mayor Mike Bell said he believed his predecessor, Carty Finkbeiner, left him a letter when he took office. Mayor Bell, in turn, left one on the mayor’s desk for the late D. Michael Collins when he transitioned into office.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz then took a short walk to take in the flood damage to the city’s engineering services division, which rents office space at One Lake Erie Center on Jefferson Avenue downtown. A pipe in the building’s sprinkler system burst Monday night, damaging at least six computers, numerous documents, ceiling tiles, and carpeting, said Doug Stephens, engineering services administrator.

Employees went home early on Wednesday so that repairs could be made, and most should be back to work on Thursday, officials said.

Mr. Stephens said many of the damaged documents have been scanned into digital files, so he is hopeful the loss of historic maps and plots is minimal. He did not have an estimate as to how much the damage will cost to repair, and city officials said an insurance claim will be filed.

Back at Government Center, Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s staff settled into their new roles.

Gretchen DeBacker, legislative director, said she is focusing on building a relationship with Metroparks Toledo, working toward a regional water system, and wrapping up the team’s transition.

“We are working on preparing a final report after the transition round tables that we’ve had,” she said.

Deputy Chief of Staff Karen Poore said her top priorities include passing a budget and hiring key positions, including directors of the economic development, finance, and neighborhoods departments.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz still is without a chief of staff, but he said he is confident the woman he would like to hire will be on board soon.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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