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Toledo Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins and the director of his transition team said they'll be ready to take over from Mayor Mike Bell — making sweeping changes to government within the first 100 days — but they remained largely mum on possible appointments to key city jobs.
Still unknown is who will be the next director of the once-troubled neighborhoods department, or the leader of the aging water infrastructure, or the city's next chief of staff.
Names such as Lucas County Auditor Office chief of staff Abby Arnold, Toledo-area Realtor Steve Serchuk, and former Finkbeiner administration official Tom Kroma — all members of the Collins transition team — have been bandied about as possible future top city officials.
Robert Reinbolt, the transition team director, avoided discussing how close they are to making key appointments, how many people they have interviewed, and whether they would consider any high-level employees from the Bell administration. Mayor-elect Collins, on the other hand, promised an announcement on or about Dec. 15, detailing the make-up of his new administration.
“I am hopeful that on Dec. 10, [City] Council will approve my request to raise the salary range for the director of business development and enterprise so that I can raise the salary cap to $135,000,” Mr. Collins said. “I feel confident that if council will allow me that flexibility, I will be able to name that individual on the 15th.”
The mayor-elect said he has winnowed the field of candidates for other top positions to one or two for each top job.
“It wouldn’t be fair to dribble them out,” he said. “It’s more important to announce the whole team and what went into the process.”
Mr. Reinbolt did not deny that he is being considered as the next chief of staff — the position he held under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
Reports from the five transition team subcommittees will be made public, said Mr. Collins, a political independent and district councilman from South Toledo.
“They are not a public records but I believe in keeping with transparency they should be made available to the media so they can see the work of the transition team,” he said.
Mr. Collins’ transition team includes former Mayors Finkbeiner and Jack Ford — who both sit on the team’s neighborhood subcommittee. There are also seven former high-ranking city administrators who worked under Mr. Finkbeiner: Mr. Reinbolt, Bill Franklin, Juanita Greene, Theresa Gabriel, John Bibish, Ken Neidert, Dave Amstutz, and Mr. Kroma, who was Toledo’s director of public utilities and assistant chief of staff. It’s also heavily loaded with business and labor leaders.
During the campaign, Mr. Collins said if he were elected mayor, he would move to replace management employees who have retired and returned to work, including police Chief Derrick Diggs. Mr. Reinbolt and Mr. Franklin are both city retirees, yet both are being considered for jobs.
Mr. Franklin is being considered to head up a city department on a temporary basis.
“There have been discussions. Nothing has been formalized yet,” he said. “I did submit my resume but did not apply for any specific position.”
Mr. Reinbolt was coy about his possible role in the Collins administration.
“Any announcement is for Mike to announce,” he said. “I am working on the transition team. If I need to extend that out to help with the transition after, I am willing to do that.”
Mr. Kroma, who heads the neighborhood subcommittee for the transition team, was not retained by the Bell administration in January, 2010. He is now a candidate for the city’s next neighborhoods director.
“There have been discussions, but I believe there will be an announcement,” he said. “I am interested. If I can do something to help, I am interested, sure.”
Linnie Willis, Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority executive director and a member of the transition team neighborhood subcommittee, said the group has spent a good deal of time discussing central Toledo.
“There is the issue of the complete deterioration of our central city, the lack of viable [community development corporations] in those areas, the deterioration of housing, and vacant property,” Ms. Willis said.
They have not discussed who Mr. Collins should hire to lead the department, she said.
The team’s five subcommittees have until Thursday to hand over reports with their critiques and recommendations.
“I am trying to stay away from it because I don’t want the reports to be biased to include what the administration might want,” Mr. Reinbolt said. “There is great interest, really good involvement, and excellent attendance.”
Mr. Reinbolt downplayed his role in selecting members of the Collins administration, but others portrayed him as a gatekeeper.
“We have talked to some people,” he said. “Right now we are concentrating on our directors. ... I think it would be unfair to say there has been an interview process.”
AFSCME Local 7 President Don Czerniak said Mr. Reinbolt is conducting some interviews personally.
Many Bell administration leaders declined comment or could not be reached for comment.
Human Resources Director Ellen Grachek — who has been lauded by Mr. Collins during council meetings — would not answer questions about her future.
Ms. Grachek, a former city councilman, was hired as a city attorney dealing with labor issues at the start of the Bell administration.
Mayor-elect Collins said he is happy with current fire Chief Luis Santiago but there is a nagging question mark regarding the city’s next top cop.
Mr. Collins said he expects to hear from Chief Diggs this week about whether he wants to remain police chief. The mayor-elect said that he might have difficulty replacing Chief Diggs because of a requirement in the city charter to show just cause. Chief Diggs could not be reached for comment.
Ms. Arnold also could not be reached for comment. Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez said Ms. Arnold was interviewed by the transition committee for a possible job with the Collins administration. Ms. Arnold is paid $85,000, so is looking at a potential reduction in pay unless she lands a director’s position.
Current city directors each make $92,000 plus benefits annually. Commissioners make between $74,000 and $77,000 plus benefits annually.
“I know that many departments at the city, particularly the water department, need help with customer service,” Ms. Lopez said, citing one of the key themes of her unsuccessful campaign for mayor this year — that customer service has declined under Mayor Bell.
“If I was the mayor, I would put Abby Arnold at the hub of that process,” Ms. Lopez said. Ms. Lopez was appointed to the transition team of incoming Mayor Jack Ford in 2001 and then was offered the post of director of affirmative action and contract compliance.
Councilman Rob Ludeman said he’s had no exposure to the transition other than speaking about it with Mr. Serchuk.
“What I’ve heard on the street, in church, and people that I talk to, they said they’re kind of amazed that the team that helped Mike Collins get elected, the nuts and bolts people, were a lot of young people, and it turns out that most of the people that have been involved as insiders since the election have all been gray hairs, and I have to agree with them,” Mr. Ludeman said. “What happened to the young folks? Steve Leggett I think is part of it, but you’d think if that was the group that had really pushed to get you elected there’d have been more inclusiveness of younger folks and get their input on how do we keep young people here and bring young people to our city.”
Stephen Leggett, the Collins campaign director who is on the transition team, is also being considered for a city job.
Blade politics writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6171, or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.