Arguably, Toledo Latinos have never had a better friend in high places than Ford. And to paraphrase a long-ago advertising slogan, Toledo needs to keep a Ford in its future.
Mayor Ford, a Democrat, sat down with La Prensa two weeks ago to review his record. His accomplishments on behalf of Latinos are nothing short of staggering.
Relaxed, confident, and displaying his wit and sharply honed sense of humor, Ford talked about what he has done during his first term. He points to his epoch-making appointment of Anita López as the city’s director of affirmative action and purchasing.
“This was a first in the state of Ohio ,” says Ford of López’s appointment. Now Lucas County Recorder, López was a student of Ford’s when he taught political science at the University of Toledo . He has championed her cause since and she has justified his respect at every step of her career. “I can easily envision her as a judge one day,” says Ford.
Ford was also a major contributor to the López campaign for recorder, contributing $2,000 at a fundraiser last year.
Mayor Ford is a major supporter of Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar. When Escobar won for the first time in 2000, Ford—then the Ohio House Minority Leader and mayor-elect—has been quoted as saying, “This is one of the greatest nights in Toledo politics.”
Another beneficiary of Ford’s ability to recognize and reward outstanding community leadership has been Margarita DeLeón. The community activist and publisher of Bravo magazine last year became the first Latina ever appointed to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
A few weeks ago, Darlene Vásquez Langenderfer was appointed Manager of Customer Service in the city’s Public Utilities department. Ford is proud of her work as well. “She supervises 45 people and handles all of the complaints that come into the department. She finds out what the problems are, and it is her job to take care of those issues,” explained Ford.
The mayor also took pride in two other recent promotions. “Phil Cervantes, the former Waite High School principal’s son, is the first Latino battalion chief in the history of the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department, and Jesse Torrence, who has been very supportive of Latino causes, is the new director of Toledo Sister Cities, Inc.,” said Ford. As such, he is leading the campaign to link Toledo with a sister city in México.
The mayor has also made outstanding appointments to the Hispanic Affairs Commission (HAC). Ford appointed David Ibarra, Robert Vásquez, and Theresa Regalado to the commission in 2002. And the following year, he reappointed Hernan Vásquez and DeLeón.
“I am also particularly proud of Robert Torres, who I appointed to the Department of Economic and Community Development to manage the Youth Entrepreneur Program and to introduce Latino businesses to the city and support their cause. Once the commission [HAC] was in place, Torres was appointed to its half-time position of Executive Director,” said Ford.
The next generation of Latino leaders is exemplified by community activist Lisa Canales-Flores, the president of the Washington Local School Board. What does she think about Mayor Ford’s commitment to the goals and aspirations of the Latino community?
“Jack Ford has been a strong advocate for the Hispanic community many years before the City of Toledo elected him as mayor,” Canales-Flores told La Prensa.
“Since that time, he has encouraged and presented opportunities to many Latinos. Mayor Ford ran on the slogan, A Strong Mayor for Tough Times. And the Ford Administration and the City of Toledo have endured some tough times together. Anyone can lead in good times, it takes strong leadership to lead and prevail in the bad times,” she explained.