My friend and I were sitting in the clubhouse at Maplecrest Golf Course drinking a beer after playing a round, when his phone went off.
“The mayor just resigned,” he quoted from the text.
“When did this happen?” I asked.
My friend still knows people inside city hall, having been active in local politics for many years. When not much more was forthcoming, we decided to call the local news outlets (WAKR and the Beacon Journal) to get some more details.
“What?!!” The reporter in 1590 WAKR’s newsroom asked in amazement. Within minutes Ed Esposito, the station’s news director, was on the phone with my friend asking if the rumor was true. My friend, in the meantime got much of the same response when he called a reporter who often covers the mayor. Within the hour everyone knew the news and the mayor’s letter of resignation was made available. But there for a few shining moments, my friend and I were at the center of the local news universe and hadn’t even shed our golf cleats.
My relationship with the mayor began with the launch of Akron Life & Leisure Magazine in 2003. The Mayor wrote a letter of welcome for our first issue. Our relationship with city hall seemed to be solid and I would occasionally see the mayor at fundraisers and at the wine tasting we sponsor with the city every year at Hardesty Park in July.
Whenever he showed up at gatherings, people would crowd around to hear of the mayors latest adventures. I learned that he does not play golf, his recovery from a spider bite was much worse than his open heart surgery and that he didn’t get along too well with the president of the police union, among other things. (The other things being, he doesn’t like journalists, though strangely, through the years he has hired many of them for important positions on his staff, to wit: Dave Lieberth was the news voice of WHLO at one time; Mark Williamson, before he was the mayor’s voice to other journalists was the news anchor on WAKCTV for several years and Billy Soule, who still works for the mayor, worked for 1590 WAKR). I mostly kept my distance and tried not to become a target. That seemed to work until the last election.
In the September 2011 issue of akronlife we decided to go against all of the so serious reporting of all the minutia that the mayoral campaign was generating. We sent out a questionnaire to all of the candidates for Akron mayor. One of the questions was: “If held at gun-point and forced to watch one of the New Jersey-based reality shows, which one would you choose?”
The candidates – Michael Williams, Jennifer Hensal and Janice Davis – all responded with their own humor, poking fun at some of our other questions and each returned questionnaire was accompanied with a photo of each candidate smiling. Mayor Plusquellic refused to play along and sent a stern message via his aide, city spokeswoman Stephanie York, that he objected to the question about the “gun to your head” saying it was in bad taste. He said that he did not want his name associated with the questionnaire in any way including saying that he had not filled it out.
Our former editor wrote in her opinion piece at the front of the magazine about politicians with a sense of humor. She cited Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and finished by quoting Dwight Eisenhower who once said: “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” That’s when I learned not to tug on Superman’s cape.
I tried to make amends. I approached the mayor at the funeral of a mutual friend; I tried again at our wine tasting fundraisers we hold in conjunction with the city and again at other fundraisers. He was having none of it and repeated the story about the “gun to your head” question. My son who doesn’t work for the family business, introduced himself as my son at a social gathering and the mayor again told him the story. Then, last July we asked him to be on our cover for the “Best of the City” issue and he agreed, but brought along that same story to the photo shoot. Finally, the last time I saw him was at a fundraiser this spring. This time he approached me and my wife and started a conversation. Several people came up to him during our conversation and offered their support for another run for mayor, which everyone knew he would win.
I asked him if he was going to run this November and he said he didn’t know, which is what he has been saying for several months if we all had been listening. Finally, I asked, “If not you, who?” and he shrugged his shoulders. No mention was made of the offending questionnaire and I assumed that our feud was over.
This magazine has been a big supporter of Mayor Donald J. Plusquellic from our very first issue through the recall election which was launched against him where we told the recallers to “Recall the Recall!”
Akron would not be the same place without the vision and determination of Mayor Plusquelic. We owe the man our gratitude if not for the way he governed, but for what he has accomplished in his governance. Thank you Mr. Mayor, from all of us in this city.
By the way, Mayor, have you thought about running for governor? Your timing may be just right.
Don Baker, Jr., Founder and Editor-in-Chief