Friday, September 9, 2011

Plusquellic, charismatic and combative as ever, aims for 7th term Tuesday

This summer I went to Akron to meet Don Plusquellic, the big personality who’s dominated the town’s politics since he was elected mayor in 1987. I’d blogged about him before and interviewed him by phone long ago. But during his campaign for a seventh term, I wanted to size up the guy in person.

I hoped he’d prove to be as intense, charismatic and combative as his reputation. And he was.

“This is a magic wand,” Plusquellic announced, waving a gavel handle, at a press conference. “It is a magic wand that good people, even probably my own mother, wishes I had waved a long time ago, to bring 35,000 or 40,000 or 50,000 rubber jobs back to this city.”

It was his sarcastic, strong-willed way of reminding voters that he’s spent 24 years trying to expand what a city hall can do for a local economy, while forging partnerships with businesses and suburban neighbors.

I thought I might get a dose of Plusquellic’s endless feud with his motley crew of enemies, the fury he inspires and inflicts.

“I despise ‘em, I think they’re despicable human beings, and I put Mike in that category, of people who lie to the public,” he told me.

“Mike” is Mike Williams, Plusquellic’s opponent in Tuesday’s mayoral primary. Plusquellic thinks Williams misled voters about his failed 2008 plan to fund college scholarships for Akron kids by leasing the city sewers. It’s one of several reasons the mayor’s race has gotten fiercely personal.

Tuesday’s election looks like it’ll be a referendum on Plusquellic — both his record of job creation and his combative politics. You can read “Tire Calling,” my article about the Rubber City’s mayor, in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine and online here.

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