MATT WESTERHOLD: Change and hope for Sandusky

Managing Editor, Sandusky Register As the year winds down it seems a perfect time to review what we
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

Managing Editor, Sandusky Register

As the year winds down it seems a perfect time to review what we can look forward to next year, and one of the brightest spots is the new makeup of the Sandusky City Commission.

Commissioners Dave Waddington and Dan Kaman finally will be able to push their agendas. Both men have demonstrated dedication to the city above partisan party politics. Although the city commission is a nonpartisan government, don't think for a minute the Democratic Party hasn't held sway and successfully sought a power base there. That occurred to the detriment of good government.

Waddington and Kaman, with an able assist from city commissioners-elect Kim Nuesse and John Hamilton, destroyed the Craig Stahl voting bloc that for far too long blindly followed a hidden agenda. That obstructionist voting bloc consisted of Stahl and commissioners Bob Warner, Brett Fuqua and Julie Farrar, with a regular assist from commissioner Pervis Brown Jr.

But Stahl and Warner both went down in flames -- big time -- on Election Day. And that was a mandate for change delivered by voters. Fuqua and Farrar were in the middle of their terms and not up for re-election, so they did not have to face the wrath of voters. But the election results, for sure, left them the odd-commissioners out.

It will be interesting to see where Fuqua and Farrar land when the new commission starts Friday, and whether they continue an obstructionist approach to public access to government. There is reason to hope both of them can turn things around when it comes to their past blind decision making.

Farrar took a strong stand on whether commission should consider hiking the admissions tax, aka the Cedar Point tax, but her approach always has been to feed the beast of government bureaucracies. Why wouldn't it be? She is part of that bureaucracy as an employee of the Ohio Veterans Home. Bureaucrats don't always make good politicians, but at least Farrar took a stand.

And Fuqua? He also is an erstwhile member of the bureaucracy. He works as a substitute teacher for Sandusky Schools, and that gives him a similar slant. But even he took an independent stand recently when he said at a commission meeting how disappointed he was with former city manager Matt Kline's behavior after Kline was fired. There were so many indicators for so long that it's a bit difficult to believe he was so blindsided by Kline's mismanagement, but Fuqua finally spoke up. That's a hopeful sign.

Commissioner Brown won his election bid, escaping the disdain of voters perhaps because he separated himself from the Stahl voting bloc in the weeks before the election by convincing the commission to cut pay for the top-paid city employees and distancing himself from Kline. He saw the writing on the wall then, and hopefully he'll continue down that road.

And if there were too few truly independent voices at the commission table before, there are a couple more there now.

Kim Nuesse underwent trial by fire thanks in large part to the dethroned Stahl voting bloc. She could emerge as a strong voice and agent for change on the commission in short order. That's what voters said they wanted when they gave her a landslide victory Nov. 3, despite the vapid and continuing efforts of the entrenched leadership across the county.

And John Hamilton does not seem at all to be a kept man. He presents himself as a thoughtful, contemplative person who makes decisions with a Zen-like attitude, sizing up any question and voting according to what he thinks best rather than a pre-ordained, secret plan.

Voters demanded change, and the change they got could prove to be seismic. Power in the city has shifted away from the failed leadership of past, and there is reason to believe this new city commission will finally give the city the kind of government it deserves.

Here's hoping, anyway.