I spoke with Sandy Spang,
a political independent and candidate for the Lucas County
Board of Commissioners in the November 6 general election.
Spang has been able to wed her ability, as an artist, to
boundlessly ďcapture the energy and essenceĒ of an issue,
with her pragmatic, systemized and fixed approach as a real
estate investor, into a unique political philosophy.
This is part one of our
You have been both elected and re-elected to serve on Toledo
City Council. However, many people might not know about you
and the impetus for your public service.
I was born in Toledo, the youngest of three children. My
oldest brother, whom we lost last year at age 62, had Down
Syndrome. That, of course, was a very formative experience
in my life. Iím still currently very involved with the
developmental disabilities community. I was always a fighter
for Steve, I always wanted to make sure that things went as
well as they could for him and maybe that in some ways has
influenced my commitment to public service today. So that
was an important part of my growing up.
How about your education and professional experience?
I graduated from Bowsher High School. I went to Bowling
Green State University and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts
degree and specialized in glass on metal and worked my way
through college working for the old Keidanís jewelry chain.
I sold a lot of people their engagement rings. And I worked
full time while I went to college and when I graduated I
went on to become a gemologist and at the age of 24 became a
diamond buyer for Keidanís nine stores. So that was a
wonderful early career for me.
And for the middle of my
life when my husband and I were raising our family, we built
our rental property portfolio. I often say that a lot of
local government is really about property management, about
making sure that things are maintained and so that
experience was very valuable to me.
More recently, and people
may know this the most about me, is that I opened several
coffee shops and so that has also been a valuable
experience. I employ about 20 people and so my experience
as an employer and a small business owner has come along
with me as well. So I think all of those experiences have
been useful to me as an elected official.
So given your artistic background and early professional
experience, would it be safe to say, generally, that you
know a gem when you see one, so to speak?
I do, and itís very interesting because when youíre training
to be a gemologist, and I took classes in Chicago and in New
York City, so much of it is about being able to discern the
true gem from the false gem, from the artificial or the
fake, and so isnít that also true in life?
Can you elaborate how recognizing a true gem might relate to
Itís really important to be a researcher and also to look
below the surface of any issue that comes before you. As an
elected official we have to look deeper. So when I approach
any issue as an elected official I want to know the history
of it. How did we get here? What are the factors that
brought us to the point that this is the way we do things?
And I want to know how are people doing things differently
in other places and what are the possibilities for us. And
so I think that that research which I learned to do when I
was young has been really valuable to me. I try to follow a
pattern when Iím approaching an issue. I begin with the
research, the study, and then comes the listening and
talking to people to get different points of view, and then
of course itís time to act. You have to make the decision.
Specifically how does your approach apply to your work,
should you be elected, on the board of commissioners?
The county commissionerís position is an administrative
role, so in many ways youíre implementing the policies that
are set at the state level. That requires that you have
broad knowledge. You have to have that understanding of, as
I mentioned earlier, property management. How do you keep
the roads paved, the grass cut, that kind of practical
thing, but at the same time you need to be able to address
those things that make Lucas County a good place to live.
You have to know why weíre not growing as a county. From
our peak of population, weíve lost about 50,000 citizens and
so you have to be able to assess what it is going to take to
grow Lucas County. So I think being willing to do the
research, to be a learner, a lifetime learner, is very
important. So Iíll bring that openness to the position,
that willingness to learn.
Should you be successful, you will join two Democrats on a
board that has not had a non-Democrat to serve in many, many
years. Given your background as a gemologist and as an art
major, will it take it take art or science to serve with
commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, both who
are long-term Democrats?
I am going to say itís both. The science comes first, but
then once you have all the facts, the art comes into play
because of the need to listen and bring people together.
Iíve been on city council as one voice in a body of 12 where
you have to learn to work with folks to come to a consensus
on issues. It will be the same in developing administrative
policies with the commissioners. Itís about working with
your colleagues. Thatís where something of the art comes in.
So I think there is a bit of both art and science necessary.
So where would you see the need for using broad or bold
brush strokes compared to where more finesse, as a strategy,
might be required to move someone towards a certain action?
Do you have a preference in the type of technique you will
use in governing?
Well, Iím never afraid to take a bold position or stand
alone, but I think I would lean more towards the finesse end
of the spectrum. I think that you have to be able to make
your case and sometimes to educate others, to integrate
their point of view with yours, so I think I would come down
more on the side of finesse. But at the same time, there
are times when governance just requires that you take that
How much of a challenge do you expect to have in reaching a
consensus with the two existing commissioners?
Thereís nothing more powerful than someone who truly
believes in the position theyíre taking. And if youíve done
the homework and research, youíve listened to the community,
been thoughtful about the issue and youíve developed a
position, then I think that you try to present your point of
view and listen to the other point of view. Both of these
commissioners are very experienced, Tina has a background in
social work, and they both have long streaks as
So, a major part of this
is learning from them, listening to them, but then bringing
a fresh perspective, and I think thatís what I would do. I
think I would bring fresh eyes to the job.
(To be continued)
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at