A Letter from the President
Tony Reams, President of TMACOG
Tony Reams, only the fourth permanent top officer of TMACOG since 1968, will retire in July, 2016. He began work at TMACOG in November, 2000.
TMACOG is a unique agency and I’ve had a very special job here. The next president of TMACOG will have great challenges ahead but, like I did, will find great satisfaction in the work. Working for an entire region is different from administering a jurisdiction. Our five-county area of Lucas, Wood, Monroe, Ottawa, and Fulton counties has a population of more than 800,000. TMACOG is a forum for about 90 separate governments in two states and about 60 non-governmental agencies and business. That is a lot of pieces.
TMACOG is the structure that brings all the pieces together. Our small staff is led by the choices of the many members. The members don’t always agree on an approach but we strive for practical, workable solutions that everyone can live with. While we’re non-partisan group, we recognize that members have political issues. I’ve always asked that we keep our issues on the table, not under it. We are effective when we arrive at a consensus, by discussion, and by thoughtful choices of every member. Consensus isn’t always possible, but as it’s been said, it’s better to debate an important matter without settling it, than to settle it without debating it. Every member has a voice in those debates, too. We have had chairs of our Board of Trustees from the villages of Luna Pier and Green Springs, the City of Fostoria, and Ottawa County. Every township trustee or village administrator has a role and a voice in TMACOG. Everyone is important and no voice is less than another.
The projects that TMACOG members take on are also gratifying: building bridges, protecting natural resources, improving safety on railroads and highways. These things matter to everyone. Our recent restructuring to focus a department directly on water quality reflects the community consensus that it’s time to put strong local effort into protecting our largest natural resource. This is our long-term commitment.
An organization like TMACOG can take the long view and maintain pressure for progress over time in a way that individual elected officials cannot do alone. With TMACOG as a long-standing forum for the region, our members have had enormous impact. Look at the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway. That took 30 years of planning and cajoling and pressing forward by a partnership. Look at the improvements in the Ottawa River. Through 15 or 20 years of study, we found the worst of the industrial pollution in that river and kept pushing until we found a way to safely remove contaminated sediment. A few years ago we were able to remove signs warning against contact with the water and now we are seeing more fish and a diversity of fish moving upstream. That is a multi-jurisdictional success story.
I point to traffic and water because those are examples of challenges that cross boundaries. Our highways don’t stop at borders, rivers run where they want to, and the snow and rain fall on everyone. We need regional responses to those issues. It happens that regional decision-making is also good for economic development. When we’re in the habit of building consensus and looking for solutions, we build respect for each other and we’re more likely to pull together. If Monroe has a chance for a new corporate headquarters, you can be sure that Maumee is happy for them. When North Baltimore saw opportunities arise from an intermodal terminal, TMACOG partners worked together to improve road access and sanitation to that village. What I have seen in my 15 years is leadership and cooperation among port authorities, county engineers, state agencies, and so many elected officials.
It’s been an honor to work with elected officials and other public servants. Sometimes it’s a disappointment when an election is lost or someone returns to the private sector. But on the other hand our region benefits from the enthusiasm and ideas of the newly elected. TMACOG is a resource for those beginning public service. We provide institutional memory and practical assistance. A new mayor or township trustee is not on their own when they can turn to their peers in a mutually supportive forum.
Being president of TMACOG has been a satisfying job to have. To listen and learn from smart people, to be of service to the people of the region, and to have a hand in improving lives is a privilege.