By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
When the winds change, we must change. We have to struggle to our feet and reset the sail in a manner that will steer us in the direction of our own deliberate choice.
– Jim Rohn
Tina Skeldon-Wozniak revealed last week that she will step down from her role at the end of 2023, a year ahead of her term’s scheduled conclusion. The daughter of one of Lucas County’s most legendary politicians whom a baseball stadium was named after, Wozniak recognizes that the winds of her life are changing.
Rather than holding onto her role past her metaphorical “expiration date,” as we have seen manifested by other aging politicians, who have overstayed their relevance, utility and effectiveness, the long-serving Wozniak caught the “grandma syndrome” and chose to retire and spend quality time with her family and grandchildren. By “resetting her sail,” she deliberately decides to steer her life in a direction that aligns with her priorities and desires at a critical juncture.
Wozniak arrived on Toledo City Council in 1997 and transitioned to the Lucas County Commissioners in late 2003, replacing Mark Pietrykowski, who had left for a judicial position.
A former social worker trained to listen, understand, and empathize with individuals from diverse groups within the Toledo community, Skeldon-Wozniak’s friendly, caring demeanor, along with firsthand experience with the interconnectedness of social issues, from housing and employment to mental health and education made her unique as a county politician.
Her social work training in cultural sensitivity also enabled Skeldon-Wozniak to understand marginalized communities’ unique challenges. She is particularly equipped to calmly and effectively navigate the crises Black and Brown communities experience.
Wozniak brought a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach that made her successful as a liaison with Scott Sylak and the Lucas County Mental Health Board. She was among the first to recognize the impact of mental health and drug addiction – including the opioid epidemic on everyday lives in Lucas County. She was a leader in the criminal justice reform that Lucas County is a national leader in and helped the County begin to take a more progressive and updated view on solutions like jail diversion and bail reform. She was also ideally suited to deal with the monumental issues faced by Lucas County Children’s Services and Lucas County Juvenile Court.
Although she is still working hard and hasn’t yet taken her final bow, Wozniak will perhaps be most remembered for keeping the Board of Commissioner’s eyes on mental health, being an ardent promoter for the arts and the Toledo Arts Commission, and championing the rebuild of the dog warden of Canine Care and Control.
Tina shied away from controversy and conflict and was a kinder, gentler political leader than most politicians today. We will undoubtedly miss her style, which was very friendly, warm, and non-combative.
Although Wozniak is still hard at work and contributing, and has earned the right to be respected as a commissioner until she finishes on December 31, 2023. Yet, the rumor mill began churning with potential successors almost immediately after she announced her retirement plans.
Here are a few names that have surfaced:
The leading angler and working the hardest to succeed Skeldon-Wozniak is Michael Hart, executive director of the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board. In his early 30s, Hart has been around and adjacent to solid political leadership since he was a teenager. He has participated in campaigns from candidates from Ted Strickland to Paula Hicks-Hudson. Groomed by Pete Gerken, Hart is a quick learner, empathetic, thoughtful, and communicates well. Hart has gathered an impressive network of support for the appointment, which will come via a vote of the Lucas County Democratic Party’s central committee. Reportedly, Hart already has the backing of Skeldon-Wozniak, Tina Butts and the Building Trades union.
Former Lucas County administrator Megan Vahey Casiere is another name that has surfaced as a possible candidate. A close ally of Skeldon-Wozniak, Casiere resigned her position at Lucas County in December to take the executive director position with the Employer’s Association. She is a distinguished public servant, but challenges from her tenure as an administrator could pose hurdles in succeeding Wozniak.
Finally, Paula Hicks-Hudson makes a legit case for candidacy, given Lucas County’s demographics. Notably, there hasn’t been a minority on the Board of Lucas County Commissioners since Bill Copeland, the first African American to hold a countywide post, retired in 2002.
Hicks-Hudson certainly has the credentials and a remarkable service record, including terms on Toledo City Council, city council president, mayor, state representative, state senator, and Lucas County Democratic Party interim chair.
The county commissioner position would be preferable to most than driving back and forth to Columbus regularly. In addition, an appointment would provide Hicks-Hudson with decision-making authority instead of the frustration that comes with being a Democratic Party minority in a state legislature where Republicans hold a super majority. Yet, Hicks-Hudson’s candidacy could also block the navigational channel for newer and younger perspectives.
As the winds of society shift towards fresh perspectives and ideas, it remains to be seen whether the Lucas County Democratic Party will follow Skeldon-Wozniak’s lead and reset the sail in a manner that will steer us in a direction that aligns accordingly.
It appears that Tina Skeldon Wozniak’s claim of “grandma syndrome” is a classy way of telling us that it’s time for a new generation of leadership.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org