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November 30, 2023

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Zanfardino appointed to 2nd Ward council

John Zanfardino, long time Bowling Green resident, Democrat, and social service worker, was appointed last Monday by city council to fill a vacancy in the 2nd Ward council position following the resignation of Mike Zickar three weeks ago.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Zanfardino came to Bowling Green in 1969 to attend the University. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology he returned home, but could not settle back in to the big city environment. He has lived here for all but six or seven years since.

“It was really different going back to something that large and sprawling after being in kind of a village,” he said.

Work has brought him to live in the Toledo area a few times, and he is currently employed as a rehabilitation coordinator at the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Before that he was a case manager, aiding disabled clients. Previously employed at Wood Lane and what is now Behavioral Connections, Zanfardino placed the first disabled person in the community with a job some 20 years ago. Now there are about 240 such placements.

“So, that’s something that I’ve always been proud of,” he said, adding that today he takes pride in being a good supervisor.

Zanfardino, named as one of the Wood County Democratic Party’s 2004 Persons of the Year, has other reasons to smile. It was his hard work conducting voter drives and volunteering in other ways during the presidential election that made it possible for him to pursue office in city council.

Alan Baldwin, chair of the Wood County Democratic Party, joined Zickar in recommending Zanfardino to the office. Those recommendations made their way to the 2nd Ward Democratic Central Committee, which, after discussion, voted unanimously in favor of the nomination to council.

“He’s clearly someone who cares about the community. He cares about politics. He’s in the social service business. He’s got a commitment to public service and that demonstrates his ability to follow through with it,” Baldwin said, adding that another advantage is Zanfardino’s knowledge of the ward, which he walked several times over during the recent presidential campaign.

Zanfardino is involved in a long-term committed relationship with Marie Foxwell, who thinks the appointment is “fabulous.”

“He’s really intelligent, he has studied political and social things forever, ever since he went to school here. He brought a lot of energy to the presidential campaign and that’s sort of what got everybody’s attention. So, I think he’ll bring a lot of energy to this as well,” she said.

Zanfardino intends to pick up where Zickar left off. Zickar resigned in anticipation of a move to Perrysburg to shorten his wife’s commute to the Detroit area, left off. Zanfardino is interested in continuing Zickar’s work in bringing the students and city together, and in protecting the neighborhoods of homeowners.

“I think Mike’s an impressive guy, kind of a mentor. Other than that, I really have a lot to learn,” he said, referring to the extensive learning curve associated with taking on such an office.

Foxwell believes Zanfardino will perform excellently as a replacement for Zickar, who held special meetings aimed at getting students more involved in city politics, because Zanfardino is the “classic middle child wherever he goes.”

“I think it’s really important in this ward, probably in this town in general, to be able to see, you know, the homeowners and also the students. He’s been both,” she said.

As Zanfardino picks up the reigns, his first personal thoughts surround recycling– Zanfardino enjoys recycling, and even brings his recyclables back when he goes away on vacation–and improving small business in the downtown area.

“So, I guess another thing I’d like to do is just further the concept of supporting local business as opposed to chains,” he said, adding that he frequents small businesses when they open.

The term Zanfardino is filling is elected in November, and he plans on running for re-election.

“Sure. Yeah. I wouldn’t be doing it if it was just for the five months,” he said.

For play, Zanfardino enjoys volleyball at the student recreation center twice a week, maintains his property’s beauty through gardening, is a pitcher on a City Recreation Department softball team, and occasionally plays guitar.

He also volunteers for the Black Swamp Arts Festival and the Wood County Humane Society as staff for events.

Zanfardino will continue to be involved in the Wood County Democratic Party, and is a member of the executive committee.

Looking back on his University days, Zanfardino remembers all of the amazing people he met, especially several professors in the Department of Sociology.

“They are my intellectual mentors,” he said, adding that he has fond memories of the University.

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