With several fresh faces
equipped with party endorsements for the 2017 local
elections, I get the sense that Toledo voters are sick and
tired of the traditional blame-shame politics of the past.
Instead, I surmise, the
public is strongly desirous of candidates who cross racial,
social and cultural lines but bring effective concrete
proposals for rebuilding our city and community.
One such candidate is Sam
Melden, a Toledo-born millennial with a background in the
nonprofit world. Recently, I had a conversation with Melden
to discuss his agenda and message.
Iíve been told that you like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice
cream. When it comes to coffee that you will ďdrink it in a
box with a fox, on a train or on a plane.Ē What other
favorites does ďSam I AmĒ Melden have that readers might not
Well, two albums I had on the record player most recently
were Ray Charles and Paul Simon. Paul Simon, Graceland
is a good one to dance to with the children. They
really like Graceland and then Ray Charles, I mean
heís just phenomenal.
I graduated from Lake High
School in 2002, which means I followed the NFL in the 90ís
when the Dallas Cowboys were Americaís team and won the
Super Bowls and Emmitt Smith, so I picked up the sport when
they were amazing and very much a fan.
Okay, I ainít mad at you. Iím a Pittsburgh Steeler fan and
theyíve got some history with Dallas, but I think we may
have the advantage anyway.
I think thatís right.
Oh my gosh. Balance Grille is my favorite restaurant. I
know the owners over there, but then I like a lot of really
good healthy local food, like an Asian grill type thing.
But pizza, Iíll take pizza from Calvinoís in West Toledo
with some red wine any day.
Okay, great. Letís shift to the topic at hand. You are a
candidate for an at-large seat for Toledo City Council. Why
should Toledo voters elect Sam Melden and what
differentiates you from the other candidates?
Well, I think that itís time for Toledo to have some fresh
representation and people with a new voice and a new
perspective. I donít have a nostalgic view of the city, I
have a present-tense and future-oriented perspective. Iím
thinking about what is this city going to be like when my
kids are my age. I donít have this sense of different
parties being held downtown in 1980s and so Iím looking
forward to what type of city my children and my
grandchildren are going to inherit.
And so, I think Toledoans
should vote for me because Iím thinking about the future.
Iím also thinking about everyoneís kids. Iím thinking about
all the different types of families we have in our city and
what types of challenges theyíre facing now and what types
of opportunities they want for their kids and grandkids
moving forward. So thatís one thing that differentiates
The other thing I would
say is that knowing the non-profit world, I have a lot of
experience in trying to figure out how to do more with less,
and I think that the city government and local elected
officials have to figure that out, so we need people who can
balance and be financially wise, and also rally a community
in a grassroots fashion, and thatís what Iíve been doing.
So those would be a few reasons.
Letís talk about your agenda.
Sure. So first of all, I want to say that I think that the
role of a city council member is to respond to what comes
across their desk every day. So we can have agendas, we can
have ideas moving forward, but really itís about how we
respond and what will be our approach to the issues that
come up that we didnít even see coming. My approach is to
frame that as three simple questions. The first question
is: Is this the best option? Sometimes we get stuck in this
either/or, A or B type thinking but the truth is, there
might be a different option out there and the role of the
city council member is to really do the work looking at all
these different cities in a similar position and what
theyíve done and what struggles have they had.
The second question is: Is
it the best option for everyone? Not just one group of
people, not just one neighborhood, but is it the best option
for everyone? I think a lot about the common good and I
think itís important that different issues that we think
about, is this really going to move us forward for everyone
in our city, all of the City of Toledo.
And then the third one is,
as I alluded earlier: Is this solution really lined up
properly with the day and time that weíre in? We canít be
making decisions based on how this city should have been 15
or 20 years ago or what we think shouldíve happened 10 years
ago. We have to be making decisions based on what the city
should look like 10 or 20 years from now.
So thatís how Iím going to
approach those issues. And those issues would be certainly
water, thatís obviously a really important, a crucial issue
in our community and not just safe and clean, but
affordable. Also, we canít take our focus off the lake.
Itís our greatest resource that we take for granted all the
time, and so we have to be thinking about that. The other
thing I would say that is an important piece of my agenda is
being forward thinking relative to our economic development
success in our community, jobs, like real good living wage
viable jobs in our community. That goes back to the future
orientation that I have on these different things, so I
think that thatís a big piece of it.
The last item would be
neighborhoods. I have a real thorough vision for how we
have more engaged neighborhoods that are more about being
neighbors than being watchdogs. We have certain
neighborhoods who are doing well and other neighborhoods who
arenít, and the role of a city council person is to connect,
create better efficiencies and effectiveness in our
neighborhoods, help address issues.
You have frequently used the terms common interest, common
good and common ground. I am intrigued.
For me, it really begins with my faith personally. Iím
interested in local politics for the same reason Iím
interested in non-profit work, and the same reason I was
really interested in being involved in ministry and leading
a church, but not in the sense of trying to dictate the way
people lived in the privacy of their own home. We have this
really unhealthy relationship between faith and politics,
but because I see these similarities, and the church, just
like a city government structure, and elected body and
neighborhood organization, the central question theyíre
trying to answer is how to we share life together? How do we
do that? How do we organize ourselves along the path in
sharing life together? What are our values? How do we
organize that pursuit? And so, for me, itís really important
to remember the ďweĒ and the ďtogetherĒ in that.
So the reason Iím drawn to
elected office and then running for this is because I think
we need more elected officials and people leading in our
city that remember that their job is to represent everyone
in the community, those who voted for me, those who didnít
vote at all and those who voted against me. Once Iím in
that seat, my job is to represent all of the community. And
so for me, you have to think about what we hold in common.
What is this pursuit as we organize life together? And that
plays into issues like water or like Kroger. There are ways
that you can break open all of these really politicized
issues and ask how is this serving the whole of our
community, not just one piece? And so thatís a guiding
principle in my life and itís certainly a driving source of
motivation for me as I get into office.
Itís because weíre all
human beings trying to organize and pursue this life
together - whether thatís called the City of Toledo, whether
thatís called St. Andrews Episcopal Church where my wife and
I attend, or whether thatís call the Neighborhood
Association that youíre a part of. Theyíre just different
ways that weíre trying to organize life together.
Thank you very much, Sam.
Okay, itís always good to talk with you.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at