Five Questions With is a regular feature of the Institute Newsletter and includes responses from a notable past graduate of the program who is improving their community in a public service role. Sandy Spang was elected in 2013 as an at-large member of Toledo City Council and was re-elected in November. She is the owner of Plate 21 and Plate 1 restaurants in Toledo, and has developed and managed area commercial and residential properties. 1. How did you become interested in public service? I was encouraged to pursue elected office by a respected mentor. He felt that my experiences as a real estate investor, small business owner and community volunteer would equip me well for public service. I was seeking a new challenge that would employ my skills and experience in service to the community, and I have found the work to be deeply meaningful. I acted on the suggestion that I could make a difference, and in turn, I now urge others to consider using their skills to benefit our community. 2. How did the Institute program prepare you for your role? Participating in the Leadership Institute was a catalyst for my entrance into local politics. In addition to presenting the opportunities and responsibilities of public service, the Institute offers an overview of the public, private, and non-profit organizations that provide leadership in our city, region, and state. I gained valuable insight into the role of entities such as TMACOG, the Regional Growth Partnership, and the Port Authority. The opportunity to build relationships with a diverse group of people who shared my interest in serving our community was also valuable. There is a special comradery that develops in an Institute class that continues long after graduation. 3. What other experience prepared you for your role? City Council Members must be generalists by necessity. In a single meeting we may discuss sewer maintenance, the Arts Commission and a labor contract. My natural curiosity and love of research and problem solving have served me well, but it has truly been my experiences as a property manager and entrepreneur that have been most valuable. Over the years I have had many opportunities as a business owner to interact with various City, County and State departments, and that has helped me advocate for private citizens and businesses. My property management experience has been useful when Council considers equipment or commodity purchases and vendor contracts. Lessons learned in my private sector endeavors have been useful in my public service. 4. In what specific ways has your role allowed you to have a positive impact? Early in my first term I was able to pass legislation requiring twenty-year maintenance plans for each of the nearly two hundred properties owned by the City of Toledo. More recently, I advocated for the partnership of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the City of Toledo which facilitated adoption of the innovative best practice of Priority Based Budgeting. I have enjoyed working with small businesses to navigate City regulations or to take advantage of community-wide programs to encourage economic development. 5. What have been the most challenging situations you have experienced in your role? What comes first to mind is that the pace of governmental action can be very different from that of the private sector. At times I have been frustrated by delays on issues which needed immediate action, and at other times council moved too quickly to allow exploration of alternative ideas. Most challenging, certainly, is the weight of casting a vote on an issue that divides the community. I have attended four-hour public meetings in which large numbers of citizens passionately made legitimate arguments on both sides of a zoning change or pending legislation. I take my responsibility to listen to all voices seriously, but ultimately I must cast a vote. My hope is that win or lose, citizens will feel my decision was researched, principled and independent.