Brian Craig said farewell to the Monclova Township Board of Trustees after the December 20 meeting. He has served as trustee for 17-1/2 years. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER
BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Like many residents of Monclova Township, Brian Craig moved to Coder Road in 1988 to enjoy a more rural community.
When developers suggested a convenience store might be located on land across the street in the early 2000s, Craig got an education in zoning, development and how to make his voice heard.
“Many people have no idea, including me before I got involved, who handles what, whether it’s the county, state or township,” he said. “Once you get involved, you learn which levers to pull.”
On December 31, Craig will wrap up 17-1/2 years as a Monclova Township trustee, during which time he made decisions on everything from major developments to barking dogs and neighbors shooting guns.
“Brian has always been a voice of calm and reason – he’s the one who would pump the brakes to give us time to think,” said fellow trustee Chuck Hoecherl. “At times we disagree, but we’ve never been disagreeable.”
During the December 20 trustees meeting, Hoecherl read a proclamation thanking Craig for his work on forming joint economic development districts (JEDDs) for financial stability; negotiating with the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office for police protection; increasing fire and EMS staffing to a 24/7 operation; improving parkland; and updating the zoning resolution and land use plan that guide the township’s growth.
“As a leader, Brian has made a huge impact for Monclova Township. His generous nature and thoughtful skill set will be greatly missed,” said trustee Barbara Lang.
A practicing attorney by trade, Craig’s first dive into public service was in 2003, when he was appointed to the Zoning Commission. In March 2004, then-trustee Keith Trettin and Lang selected Craig from a pool of 12 applicants for an open position on the board of trustees. He was then elected four times. Trudy Vicary will be sworn into office to take over his seat on Monday, January 3.
A trustee is a voice for the residents, and the way to be that voice is simple, Craig said: Get all of the facts, weigh them with input from as many people as possible and then make an unbiased decision. Residents who call or e-mail a complaint or suggestion are invited to address the board.
“It’s a good way for trustees to work through a problem. At the same time, residents have to follow through and have some skin in the game,” he said.
Often, people are angry when they first contact the township, but usually that’s due to a lack of information about the laws and regulations.
“We’re not the judge and jury – we’re simply a board,” he said.
Because of Sunshine Laws, the trustees cannot discuss cases amongst themselves unless in an open meeting, and that often makes for some frank conversations in front of the public.
To prepare, Craig said he’ll spend hours reviewing information prior to a public hearing in which trustees have to decide on a rezoning request, such as the recent decision to rezone 28 acres on Black Road – paving the way for development around the mall.
Over the years, the trustees have had to make tough decisions about development, in particular. While the Land Use Plan and Zoning Resolution guide trustees about what’s permitted and fits into the township plan for development, sometimes the decisions are not popular, Craig said.
“It makes people angry, and often the people who don’t want (housing) developments are those who most recently moved to the township,” he said.
Craig remembers wanting to lower taxes when he first joined the board. Then, he realized that only 10 percent of property taxes come back to the township to help pay for police, fire/EMS and roads, he said. Unlike a village or city, townships cannot impose an income tax to help pay for these services – even though the Monclova Township population at over 16,000 is larger than Maumee’s.
The township’s small but efficient staff makes the most of its budget to continue providing those services, Craig said.
“Elected officials in small communities often get things done because the staff goes above and beyond,” he said. “I’m proud of our dedicated team.”
Craig said he’s also proud of the community effort put forth to renovate and open the old Monclova School into a center that rents out rooms for events and businesses and hosts events for residents.
“We were turning a corner before COVID and that’s because of the management of Jennifer Reinhart,” he said.
He hopes that more residents – especially those in the northeastern section of the township – visit the community center and learn more.
Now that he’s no longer trustee, Craig and his wife Kathleen plan to spent part of the year in Florida, where he can work remotely from home.