Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
While the city of Toledo lost its Mayor, I lost a friend.
The friendship between D. Michael Collins and myself, started when I was the executive producer of WSPD, 15 years ago. Mike Collins was then President of the TPPA. It was the golden era of Newstalk radio in Toledo– we had Carty Finkbeiner as our Mayor. There was one proven method for generating great content, agitate Carty enough where he felt compelled to call in. If I had done my job right, Carty would ring the studio hotline at 8:45 AM, and request to speak to Morning Show Host, Mark Standriff. The on-air conversations that would follow, are the things of legend.
Mike Collins was one of the best at making Carty pick up the phone. It was a simple formula, book Mike, expect Carty.
During our earlier conversations, Mr. Collins would act as a personal teacher. I would ask him to explain his various points, why they mattered, and by the end I would understand. He was straight-forward, articulate and researched.
Our phone conversations continued through the rest of his life. Something, I will forever miss.
I choose not to write about local politics, because it is too divisive, and unproductive. Our city has been its own worst enemy for decades, the negativity generated from the in-fighting has taken a toll. We often worry about things bigger than NW Ohio and it causes arguments that muddies up our progress, stops our growth.
Mud sells newspapers, and generates ratings. I’d made a living by giving mud a radio home.
In 2013, our phone topics were centered around one thing– I wanted DMC to run for Mayor. I knew then-Mayor Mike Bell, was vulnerable because of his support of State Bill 5– I even predicted a split among the Democratic party, that could him an opportunity to be on the November ballot.
I expressed a fear of mine that resonated within him. It is also one of the core reasons why I have a column. Why would I choose to raise my four children in NW Ohio, where there are few jobs in any flourishing industries? Where my reward later-in-life is getting to spend my weekends in a car or on a plane, traveling to see my grandchildren? Mike’s girls and most of his grandchildren, live in different cities. I knew he had the skill set to precipitate change.
Michael Collins was the best hope for this city’s future. He had this amazing ability to remove emotion from the argument. Imagine that a son-of-an-Irish man, could win debates with his words– while never expressing his internal feelings outward. He wasn’t TV friendly, where he would say crazy things or give sound bytes that made national headlines. His career as a Policeman made his smile, at times, seemed forced. Walking his beat gave him thicker skin and greater resolve.
There was another key-factor that had me convinced he was the right man– his dedication to education and his personal evolution. At 70 years-old, he was not against change, he was not afraid of trying new things. He even signed up for Twitter.
Mike Collins didn’t claim a political party, because he wasn’t interested in politics. Mike’s reason of running for a political office was to better serve the people of Toledo. He had no ambition for a larger office. When he policed the streets on foot, he imagined what he would do different, if he was in charge.
Mike’s lifelong dream was realized in November of 2013, when his fellow-citizens elected him as their Mayor. They rewarded his lifetime commitment to public service with Toledo’s highest honor and their future.
Mike Collins was officially labeled as an “Independent”, a man without a party. He acted on what he felt was best for the city. From the snow emergencies, to the water crisis– he put our safety first. He made decisions based on the thought of children drinking from the kitchen sink or being a passenger in a car.
Mike was very deliberate with his words, he never spoke one he didn’t mean. It was calculated and purposeful. He wasn’t a used car salesman trying to sell us an agenda. He didn’t enter the city in meaningless competitions, nor did he travel the world looking for magical jobs. He stayed home, did his research and went to work.
In thirteen months; he had ProMedica moving headquarters downtown, he was looking for land to expand Jeep to save the Wrangler line, and had listed the Erie Street Market for sale. He even made a change with our welcome signs, that proudly states “You Will Do Better in Toledo”. He chose not to muddy up the message with his own name, as past mayors have done.
By the end, he had annoyed The Toledo Blade, most of city council and the county commissioners– a sign that he was doing something right. You can’t make everyone happy.. all the time.
The last time I saw Mike Collins was at the “You Will Do Better in Toledo” anniversary party in December. The city just began placing the new signs around town, and the room was packed with unfamiliar, but excited young faces. The Mayor’s smile never left his face, nor was it forced. Mike could not remember a time when our city’s morale was so high– that young people were wearing clothing that reflected their love of Toledo.
It was quite “unbelievable” after the year he’d had.
D Michael Collins did have a political party, he was a “Toledoan”; stubborn and loyal as a mule, strong and smart as an elephant, but with the heart the size of a blue whale.
The “You Will Do Better…”celebration did not take place at the Toledo Club, but rather at Wesley’s in Uptown. The bar was packed with people excited about the Glass City, optimistic and hopeful about its future. It was filled with dreamers and doers, mostly younger than me. I think Mayor Collins had seen the future of his political party that night, I know I did.
Mike Collins was a south-side Irish cop, who loved his family, his co-workers, the occasional drink, his kelly-green sweater, and his fellow residents. Mike believed in the fabric of our character, and in our future. His greatest gift to this city, the thing he should be remembered most .. is he has us believing too.
We Will Do Better in Toledo.
In Honor of D. Michael Collins, iHeartGlassCity and TFRD is hosting a FREE C.P.R. event this Valentine’s day morning. SAVE THE BEAT is sponsored by ProMedica and was inspired by the Good Samaritans who extended Mike’s life. For more information and to pre-register, visit www.savethebeattoledo.com