Just My Opinion – A Paradigm Shift in Swanton Politics
It has only been a month and two meetings since the 2022 Swanton Village Council was seated with four of six seats occupied by individuals different from the prior two years. But even in these early stages, it is abundantly clear that a paradigm shift is under way that will go well beyond just having four new names and faces plugged into the Village of Swanton’s website.
A paradigm shift, as defined, is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. If there was ever a paradigm shift desperately needed, it was on the Swanton Village Council of the past two years, a Council that too often placed its own self-interests above those of its citizens it was elected to serve.
Several changes have already been put in place by way of the Rules of Council, rules that were agreed upon, as they are every year, by the Council members in the first meeting of the new year.
Members of the public will now be allowed to address the Council at meetings without having to contact the Village Administrator on the Thursday by noon before the Monday of the meeting as before. The Mayor’s Report and Recommendations will be reinstated after having been disallowed last year. The Mayor shall preside over the Committee of the Whole and shall be an ex-officio member of all committees after having been relieved of those duties last year. The Village Administrator will again report to the Mayor as spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC).
More major examples that the winds of change are blowing in the right direction, include the Village Administration, with the blessing of the Council, now working on the implementation of live-streaming meetings to the public and the formation of an Economic Development Commission. Both initiatives, the first to provide more transparency in government and the second to promote solutions to increase the local tax base without increasing tax rates, were summarily dismissed by the former Council with bogus reasoning.
For the past two years I have attended every Swanton Village Council meeting and witnessed two Council members speak to the Mayor, other Council members and occasionally department heads in rude, unprofessional and condescending tones. In particular, they treated the Mayor with disdain and contempt, creating a hostile and counterproductive environment. I do not expect anyone on the current Council to behave in this manner.
At the previous Council meeting, Mayor Neil Toeppe laid out some of his expectations of Swanton’s Village leaders going forward stating, “We have an opportunity to inspire each other to move the Village forward. We need to challenge and inspire each other. Let’s have thoughtful discussions and debates. We are in positions of great responsibility and duty. We are responsible to the residents of Swanton and our duty is to make thoughtful decisions in the interest of the residents. How our decisions impact the lives of the residents should be at the forefront of the decision-making process.”
Mayor Toeppe also made it clear that solutions to our issues can and should come from anyone, not just those in leadership positions. He quoted inspirational speaker and best-selling author, Simon Sinek. “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen,” said Mr. Sinek.
The groundwork for a productive and forward-moving Swanton Village Council and Administration has been put in place by the voters. However, we cannot let them run on autopilot. As citizens and business owners of the Village, as well as the surrounding community, we need to be involved when we can and attentive at all times.