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Gem-olitics: The Role of County Commissioner as Science and Art

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.
The Truth Contributor

Being an artist, I had an artistís instinctsÖ You can see the picture before itís taken; then itís up to you to get the camera to see. 
Ė James Van Der Zee

 Informed decision-making challenges contemporary politicians to approach the complex systemic problems of 21st century urban communities from creative angles and, often, unconventional points of view.

Sandy Spang

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 two-part discussion.

Perryman: 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.

Spang:  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. 

Perryman: How about your education and professional experience?

Spang: 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.

Perryman: 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?

Spang:  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?

Perryman: Can you elaborate how recognizing a true gem might relate to politics? 

Spang: 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. 

Perryman: Specifically how does your approach apply to your work, should you be elected, on the board of commissioners?

Spang:  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.

Perryman: 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?

Spang:  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.

Perryman: 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?

Spang:  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 strong stand. 

Perryman: How much of a challenge do you expect to have in reaching a consensus with the two existing commissioners?

Spang: 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 commissioners.

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 drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/30/18 13:20:22 -0700.



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