Even after 24 years, Don Plusquellic is still Akron's indispensable man. So the city's voters decided yesterday, giving the mayor a 55 percent to 43 percent victory in the Democratic primary against challenger Mike Williams.
Plusquellic's record of accomplishment triumphed again over the complaints about his sometimes abrasive personality. Much of Williams' 40-point campaign plan was written as a critique of Plusquellic's leadership style. But the mayor, energized at the chance to take on a longtime rival, spun his combativeness as a positive. "Don Plusquellic is Fighting for Us... Because He Is One of Us," read a campaign flier. "The leader we need in tough times."
The mayor's aggressive, innovative record on job attraction and retention earned him the support of Akron's power elite. His victory party was filled with city leaders, the Beacon Journal reports, including CEOs, University of Akron president Luis Proenza, city councilpeople and Summit County officials.
In his victory speech, the mayor promised to revive his biggest, most elusive goal: setting up a scholarship program for Akron high school students. As he did in my interview with him, Plusquellic said he's willing to “work with anybody who didn’t mislead the public” -- a dig at Williams, who he feels misled voters about his 2008 ballot proposal to fund scholarships by leasing the city sewers.
Akron's intensely combative politics are not about to mellow out. Two pro-Plusquellic city councilpeople lost yesterday, inspiring Williams to renew his opposition to the mayor's leadership. “I’ve got some new members of council who are prepared to change how we function,” Williams said, according to the Beacon. “We cannot tolerate this old way of doing business.”
To read “Tire Calling,” my article about Plusquellic in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine, click here. For other excerpts from my interview in the latest issue of Inside Business, click here.