OFFBEAT: Pass the popcorn

Before Hollywood rolls out its nominations for the Oscars, the city of Sandusky deserves its props. A series of compelling ch
Brandi Barhite
May 9, 2010


Before Hollywood rolls out its nominations for the Oscars, the city of Sandusky deserves its props.

A series of compelling characters, surprising plots and cliffhangers made the year a must-see as far as city government goes.

The year of 2006 had some definite misses, though -- as in, you missed out.

The State of the City address was sparsely attended. City Manager Mike Will delivered an informative recap of where we've been and where we are going.

Each city department had displays and staff available to talk about services and projects. Too bad the audience was mostly city staff, commissioners, their families, a few residents and me.

My reporter notebook served as a year-long ticket to public meetings, and more importantly, access to behind-the-scenes events.

So with pleasure and qualification, I nominate:

Best Actor: John Eymann, a dark horse contender in during the latter part of the year. Eymann, an architect for Meacham & Apel, Dublin, Ohio, has faced some tough audiences while pushing the city hall redevelopment project. Despite naysayers, he's remained fairly calm and collected as he says why condos, a hotel, restaurants and a sports arena are best.

Best Actress: Commission Clerk Joyce Brown is the sole woman in many scenes. Brown holds her own twice a month as she sits at a table with seven male commissioners. Her best performance was when Commissioner Brian Crandall motioned in a public meeting to give Brown a raise, much to the dismay of his colleagues who thought it should be discussed only in executive session. Brown kept her signature straight face but the twinkle in her eye stole the show. And there was a happy ending -- she got the money.

Best Supporting Actor: An obvious choice because supporting is part of his job, but Assistant City Manager Gary Packan is behind many of the projects at 222 Meigs St. Packan played a huge role in keeping the Rieger Lofts project a possibility, even when the stalled development looked like it was hopeless (and maybe still is.) When commission demanded a more energy-efficient greenhouse or shut it down, Packan and greenhouse staff started pushing to keep the tradition. While options to fix or replace the aging greenhouse are explored, the city has saved thousands by making small changes. Packan also took on additional roles in 2006 as the director of the community development department.

Best Supporting Actress: Kelly Kresser got booted as public information officer because of budget cuts but held her head high and smiled -- even if it was strained -- as she assumed the role of the city manager's administrative assistant. The move smells a little bit like politics, so this year's election could dictate if Kresser reigns as PIO again.

Best Monologue (a category unique to Sandusky): Dennis Murray gave a rousing speech before commission voted 6-1 to move ahead with negotiating with CEG Development and Meacham & Apel Architects, the team interested in redeveloping the city hall property.

"Sandusky is at a crossroad," Murray said. "We are in the midst of a public discussion about which path to choose."

Some urge a return to a comforting past, in which LaSalle's and five-and-dime stores dominated downtown, he said.

Other good people imagine a Sandusky free from the real and troubling challenges present today, and that will remain with us in the foreseeable future, Murray said.

"Still others urge a realism that borders on pessimism or at least fatalism, arguing that having been dealt our hand, we can either play it out or gamble away our future," he said.

Best Picture: I haven't seen it yet, but there's been a trailer. It's an election year with four seats up for grab; it remains to be seen who will run. Commissioner Dave Waddington gave us a preview in September when he announced he wants a second term -- an unexpected sequel for a man who thought he would be one term and out.

Stay tuned.