It's the second highest government position in Lorain, and some say the most important. The safety/services director is in charge of the police and fire departments, sanitation, and snow removal. And right now, the man in charge is a 21-year-old college senior, who, just weeks ago, was an intern. ideastream's Dan Bobkoff has the story.
In Lorain these days, when the police chief has a discipline issue, or an engineer wants to talk about crumbling sewers, they come to Andy Winemiller. As safety/service director, Winemiller basically runs Lorain. He's second only to the mayor. Not bad for a 21-year old college kid.
Andy Winemiller: You have to go about this a little more humbly than if I were 55 years old and had a laundry list of qualifications.
Winemiller's qualifications include being a political science major in his senior year at Heidleberg College. And, he was an intern under acting mayor John Romoser.
Bobkoff: You were an intern here only a few months ago, is that right?
Andy Winemiller: It wasn't even months ago -- a few weeks ago.
Winemiller will only have the safety/service job until the end of the year. For that time, Mayor Romoser believes that, despite his age, Winemiller is the best man for the job.
John Romoser: When you consider the fact that Bill Gates was that age when he started what amounted to a billion dollar corporation, and we don't have any problem with a 21-year-old flying a $20 million airplane, I don't think age was a factor at all in this case.
Romoser had offered the job to two older, more experienced staffers, but neither wanted to take on the job for just a few weeks. The mayor says the skeptics and naysayers have been impressed when they actually meet Andy. Still, there have been skeptics. We found this man visiting city hall.
Man: I'm 23, and I know I'm not qualified to do anything along those lines and all.
And, Lorain's police chief Cel Rivera has had similar concerns.
Cel Rivera: Even on a temporary basis, I think Andy is going to find himself in a situation where he has to make some very important decisions.
In his first few weeks on the job, Winemiller has already had to negotiate union contracts, recommend people for jobs, and he'll have to decide whether to hold a hearing on sexual misconduct charges against two Lorain officers. This is no internship, and while Winemiller says he feels confident in the position, he says it's been busy.
Andy Winemiller: I don't know how anybody does it for four full years, or beyond that. Because it's constant. You're always working. You might get a call from a councilman at 11:00 at night, while you're asleep. So I think after two months, I'm going to chalk it up to some good experience, because it has been a good experience so far, and move on.
Mayor-elect Tony Krasienko is expected to bring his own man in for the job when he takes office January 2nd. Krasienko is even considering appointing separate safety and services directors. In the meantime, he believes Winemiller may be getting the best deal a college student could hope for.
Tony Krasienko: The two months he's going to be in that position, he'll be paid $15,000 and it's going toward his college education, so it might be some of the best money we've spent in that position in some time.
Winemiller clearly has future political plans. He's already run once for city council president. Maybe with safety/services director on his resume, he'll have better luck the second time. But he may have to get his own place first.
Andy Winemiller: I still live with my parents. This is only a two month gig so when this is all said and done, I'll be back at school and a 21-year-old.
Dan Bobkoff, 90.3.