Center for Archival Collections
Lucas County, Ohio - City of Toledo
In 1912 during the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s) Ohio modernized its 1852 Constitution in the reform spirit of the period. Included in this reformed constitution was a section granting cities the right to "Home Rule" with the establishment of a Municipal Charter. The "Home Rule" issue had been a hotly debated topic for Ohioans in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo since the 1890s, as municipalities sought independence from the overbearing state legislature. The "Home Rule" Amendment in Article XVIII, Section 7, of the Ohio Constitution said "any municipality may frame and adopt or amend a charter for its government and may, subject to the provisions of section 3 of this article, exercise thereunder all powers of local self-government." The provisions referred to in Section 3 of the Constitution stated that "municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws." These propositions were submitted to the voters of the state in November 1912, which were approved, and went into effect January 1, 1913.
Taking advantage of the new Constitution Toledoans elected a thirteen member charter commission on November 4, 1913. These commissioners were as follows: Dr. W.A. Dickey, Frank H. Foster, Thomas L. Gifford, William B. Guitteau, J.K. Hamilton, George D. Hartman, Daniel H. James, Isaac Kinsey, Dr. James C. Price, S.O. Richardson Jr., John Ulmer, Brand Whitlock and Judge John M. Killits who served as chairman. The charter was put to a vote on November 3, 1914 and was adopted by a vote of 21,028 to 16,466. It went into effect on January 1, 1916 and gave Toledo the "strong-mayor plan" or the federal plan of government.
The Great Depression created many hardships for Toledoans. The citizens blamed the city's mayors for many of these problems, as they believed government corruption and party politics were the cause. Many people began advocating for a City Manager form of government to help ensure nonpartisan government. Previous attempts to create a City Manager form of government in Toledo, 1928 and 1931, had all met with failure, but the discontent of the time period demanded a change. The Citizen's Charter Commission was formed and drafted an amendment providing for a
City Manager form of government and council of nine members elected at large by proportional representation...and making the mayor the presiding officer over council with no power of veto, and also making him the ceremonial and official head of the city government...to provide for a City Manager to be appointed and removable by the city council who shall be the chief executive and administrative head of the city government, and prescribing his qualifications, duties and esponsibilities; and making the City Manager responsible for enforcing laws and ordinances and advising the council…and vesting executive and administrative powers in the City Manager, directors and other city officers; providing for the appointment of directors by the City Manager and for making all other appointments and dismissals...
--Toledo City Journal, 1934
The City Manager Amendment passed on November 6, 1934 by a vote of 33,229 to 28,014 or a majority of 54.5 percent. The City Manager plan went into effect on January 1, 1936.
Toledo City Managers (1936-1968)
|1936-1939||John N. Edy|
|1939-1948||George N. Schoonmaker|
|1949-1954||Arnold V. Finch|
|1954-1957||John J. McCarthy|
|1957||Charles T. Lawton|
|1957-1960||Russell W. Rink|
|1960-1961||John R. Alspach|
|1961-1962||Louis R. Young|
|1962-1967||Frank H. Backstrom|
|1967-1968||Louis R. Young|
John N. Edy served as Toledo's first City Manager taking office on January 13, 1936. Edy was a 1905 graduate from the University of Missouri. He began his public career in 1919 when he served as chief highway engineer for the State Highway Department of Montana. From 1923 to 1930 he was City Manager of Berkeley, California. He then went on in 1930 to Flint, Michigan, and served as City Manager there until 1931 when he became the City Manager of Dallas, Texas. He held this post until 1935 when he resigned to become Assistant Director of the United States Bureau of the Budget. In December 1935 he was persuaded to come to Toledo to serve as City Manager for a salary of $12,000. Edy resigned on October 1, 1939 to assume the position of administrative assistant to Public Works Administrator John Carmody in Washington D.C.
George N. Schoonmaker, Chief Water Works Engineer of the City of Toledo, followed Edy as City Manager on October 2, 1939 and served the city in that capacity for over nine years. Schoonmaker began his public service career in 1906 when he started as a rodman in the engineering division. He also served the city as an instrument man, draftsman, special draftsman in the bridge department, assistant water engineer, construction engineer in the water division, water commissioner, engineering commissioner and director of public service. He resigned so he could retire from public life on December 31, 1948 after forty-two years of public service.
Arnold V. Finch was appointed by Toledo City Council to succeed Mr. Schoonmaker. Like Schoonmaker Finch was a Toledo native. He was a graduate from the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan. After graduating from college he served in many engineering capacities. He planned and supervised the construction of the Rossford Ordinance Depot and the reconstruction of the Walbridge rail yards. In 1948 Finch was appointed Commissioner of the Engineering and Construction Division and on January 1, 1949, became City Manager. Finch sent his letter of resignation to city council on May 18, 1954 to become General Manager of the Toledo Concrete Pipe Company.
John J. McCarthy became City Manager on June 16, 1954. He earned a law degree in 1933 from Western Reserve University and joined Toledo's city legal staff in September 1942 when he became a police prosecutor. He then served as assistant law director until 1948 when he became the city Law Director. He served as manager for three years resigning in January 1958 to return to the practice of private law.
Charles T. Lawton, who was appointed city Law Director after John J. McCarthy's appointment to City Manager, became the acting City Manager after McCarthy's resignation. This was because the City Charter specified that the law director had to act as City Manager during the absence of the City Manager. He served in that position until January 31, 1957.
Russell W. Rink, who formerly served as City Manager of Pueblo, Colorado, became City Manager on February 1, 1957. Rink served as City Manager for a period of three years. In February 1960 he informed City Council that he would terminate his services with the city on April 1 so as to become Vice President of the Public Service Company Incorporated in Plainsfield, Indiana.
John R. Alspach replaced Rink as City Manager in April 1960. Alspach was a Toledo native and formerly served as the Service-Safety Director of the City of Maumee and as Lucas County Engineer. Immediately prior to his appointment to the Managership he served as the Service Director for the City of Toledo. He held the Manager position until he resigned in December 1961.
Louis R. Young filled the vacancy created by Alspach's resignation. Young like Lawton before him was the Law Director and by charter designation had to serve as City Manager.
Frank H. Backstrom was appointed City Manager on April 1, 1962 and would hold the position for five years. Backstrom was a 1926 law graduate from the University of Michigan and was admitted to the Missouri Bar later that year becoming a member of the law firm Swearinger, Olsen and Backstrom in Kansas City. In 1932 he successfully ran for a seat in the Missouri General Assembly and after serving one term returned to Kansas City and ran for city council. He served on the council from 1934 to 1938 and then once again from 1940 to 1951. The following year he was appointed assistant City Manager of Kansas City and the year after he became the first City Manager of Tacoma, Washington. In 1956 he was appointed City Manager of Wichita, Kansas, and served in that position until 1962 when he became City Manager for Toledo. He served in that capacity until December 1967 when he retired.
Louis R. Young once again filled the vacancy created in the City Manager position in December 1967 when Frank Backstrom resigned. He served in this position as before, only briefly, until Council appointed William Gross as City Manager in early 1968.
This collection ends in 1967 and so the biographical sketches of the City Managers following Louis R. Young in 1968 will not be given. The Toledo City Manager form of government continued on until 1992 when it was abolished and the "strong-mayor plan" of city government was once again re-established.
The Toledo City Manager collection consists of ninety-four cubic feet of material. The collection spans from the years 1936 to 1967 with some older documents included, as specified in the box/folder inventory. The collection contains all of the correspondence of the City Manager to the departmental directors, divisional heads, private citizens and vise-versa. Various reports from departments and committees are also included in this collection. The collection is organized first by year and then within that year by department and division. Boards and commissions related documents follow the general collection and are organized alphabetically by year. Special programs and projects follow the boards and commissions and are organized in the same manner. Photographs follow this and conclude the collection. The basic organizational structure of the collection follows.
Budget Control Office
Purchase & Supply Division
Public Information & Industrial Development Office
Public Safety Department
Fire & Police Alarm Division
Radio Service Division
Traffic Engineering Division
Public Service Department
Air & Water Pollution Control Division
Engineering & Construction Division
Harbor & Bridges Division
Maintenance & Repair Division
Markets & Auditorium Division
Motor Equipment Division
Public Buildings Division
Sewage Disposal Division
Urban Renewal Agency
Public Utilities Department (1964)
Drainage & Watercourses Division
Sewage Disposal Division
Public Welfare Department
House of Correction
Poor Relief Division
Accident Review Board
Boxing & Wrestling Commission
City Plan Commission
Civil Service Commission
Community Development Commission
Community Relations Board
Housing & Urban Redevelopment
Industrial Peace Board
Job Evaluation Board
Labor-Management Citizens Commission
Publicity & Efficiency Commission
Sinking Fund Commission
Transit Control Board
Toledo Metropolitan Housing Authority
University of Toledo
Capital Improvements Program
Federal Public Works Agency
Lake Erie Water Supply Project
National Defense Program
Ohio Program Commission
Ohio Waterways Commission
Toledo Expressway Project
Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Note that in 1965 the Public Utilities Department was formed and that the Airport, Sewage Disposal and Water Divisions were transferred to it from the Public Service Department. Prior to 1964 the files for these divisions can be found in the Public Service Department.
Over the years many changes occurred in the composition of the city government and administration. This collection was organized as the city government existed in 1967, except where previously noted in the case for certain divisions in the Public Utilities and Public Service Departments. Organizational charts for the Toledo City Government are available in the years 1937, 1954, and 1967. A PDF file includes all three charts.
The collection though has its deficiencies, as some years are missing in their entirety or are only partially present. The following is a year-by-year break down and evaluation of the collection:
A complete year does not exclude the possibility that certain and various folders are missing. This just surmises that for the most part that year is complete compared to other years listed as partial, where there are obvious missing folders. There are some folders for the years 1944, 1945 and 1948, but for the most part the year is completely missing.
A researcher studying governmental functions or the history of the city of Toledo would find the documents in this collection very useful to their research project. This collection is indispensable for researchers in the case of the Board of Community Relations, Civil Defense during World War II, the Lake Erie Water Supply Project, the Toledo Expressway Project, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
This collection was processed and organized by Stephen W. Badenhop, June 2007.