Pioneering Second Chances: Anita Lopez’s Bold Vision for a Fairer Community

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

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

   Redemption is not just a personal journey but a societal imperative. Our systems must be designed to allow for second chances, reflecting our belief in human potential and fairness.
Michael Eric Dyson

A recent editorial criticizing Lucas County Commissioner Anita Lopez’s decision to hire Brent Rombach as her executive assistant has “set it off” between The Blade and the 8th Floor at One Government Center. The Blade’s inflammatory commentary fixates on Rombach’s previous gun charge, questioning his suitability for public office and argues that his appointment signals a disregard for public safety.

However, the newspaper’s petty perspective neglects broader and more vital discussions about second chances, the socio-economic realities facing marginalized communities, and the need for equitable policies that genuinely address public safety and employment opportunities.

Rombach, a 20-year-old who was arrested last September for having a loaded firearm in his vehicle, is a case study of the complexities young people face today. He explained that the gun was for protection—a necessity many young people in high-crime areas like east Toledo, where Rombach lives, understand all too well.

This context is significant: Ohio’s Republican-led legislature has formally authorized open carry without training, meaning carrying a firearm, legally or not, can be seen as a reasonable measure for personal safety in some communities. In other words, common sense requires one to assume that everyone you encounter is “strapped,” carrying a “heater.”

Following his arrest, Rombach – a Central Catholic High School graduate who served on the student council, played football, received exemplary peer recommendations and volunteered at the East Toledo Family Center – took significant steps toward rehabilitation. He enrolled in a pretrial diversion program that required community service, payment of fines, and a commitment to lawful behavior.

After listening to the community, the Lucas County government adopted the stance several years ago that a felony should not define a person’s entire life, especially for young people. This and other rehabilitation programs reflect the county’s belief in redemption and second chances. This principle should likewise guide our entire society’s actions and policies.

Commissioner Lopez’s decision to hire Rombach aligns with this framework of second chances and justice. Young people make mistakes, which is true even for some current local elected officials.

Notwithstanding, Lopez’s choice to appoint Rombach to a meaningful position is more than just an employment decision; it reflects faith in his potential and supports Lucas County’s “ban-the-box” initiative to reduce employment barriers for individuals with criminal records. To truly support such initiatives, we must apply them consistently and demonstrate a genuine commitment to second chances.

While advocating for second chances, we must also recognize the urgent need for policies that ensure fairness and safety in our communities. The policies should include eliminating arbitrary or disparate requirements that hinder residents from obtaining jobs and ensuring that our streets are safe from gun violence.

Outdated or unjust requirements must not be allowed to thwart equitable access to employment. Policies should prevent such barriers and promote equal opportunities for all residents. This approach supports rehabilitation, reduces recidivism, and strengthens the community by allowing individuals to contribute positively, regardless of their past.

Addressing public safety requires a comprehensive approach that establishes a fair criminal justice system and enforces laws to protect residents while acknowledging the realities of those compelled to carry firearms for protection. Citizens deserve to walk down their streets without the fear that gun violence could abruptly end their lives. The collective need for a safe, peaceful community, therefore, requires establishing a fair and just criminal justice system that residents can trust and believe in.

Finally, the criticism of Rombach’s hiring reveals a troubling inconsistency in societal attitudes toward gun ownership and criminal records. Many critics who now oppose his hiring have supported more lenient gun laws, contributing to the environment where carrying firearms is normalized. The Blade’s selective outrage fails to account for the lived experiences of those in marginalized communities. Instead, the newspaper’s perspective highlights a bias that prioritizes condemnation over constructive resolution.

Conversely, Commissioner Anita Lopez’s decision reflects a compassionate and forward-thinking leadership approach. By focusing on Rombach’s potential rather than his past mistakes, Lopez exemplifies how public officials can support rehabilitation and reintegration through fair policies, fostering a society where everyone can contribute.

Given many other critical issues our community faces, The Blade would better serve the public by addressing those broader challenges instead of “trippin’” over Lopez’s decision to offer a young person with a past felony a chance to rebuild their life.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at