Monday, November 29, 2010

Gene Waddell's handoff to Alex Arshinkoff

THE PASSING of Gene Waddell recalls the controversy over the changing of the guard when he resigned as Summit County Republican Chairman in 1978. He had called me a few days before the regularly scheduled (and usually news-less) party's executive committee meeting to alert me that he would be announcing his resignation. I was the Beacon Journal's political editor at the time and he wanted to explain that 13 years as the party's chairman was long enough.

As I sat down later at the committee's afternoon meeting , Dick Slusser, a Summit County commissioner, seemed puzzled. "What are you doing here?" he asked, innocently. "Nothing ever happens at these meetings."

"Just stay awake, Dick," I said. "I think something will happen today to liven things up."

Waddell presided over the routine business until he'd run through the regular agenda. Then came his startling notice that he was giving up his job and recommending the party's loyal young gadabout, Alex Arshinkoff, to replace him. (Arshinkoff's name had been passed down by Ray Bliss, who was trying to pump some young blood into the operation at headquarters.)

Some of the local achievers, including Mayor John Ballard, at the meeting were outraged by Waddell's summary call for an endorsement of Arshinkoff and demanded a postponement until they could find a candidate more to their liking. They even sent emissaries to Arshinkoff to persuade him to step aside when a new meeting to elect Waddell's successor was scheduled. Fat chance. (No pun intended!) After weeks of delay, Arshinkoff won the job.

What a change, at least in style points: Waddell was largely a soft-spoken, avoid-the-limelight lawyer who carefully avoided controversy at all costs by not going out of the lines. Arshinkoff moved into the role like a thousand cossacks, never more than a day or two free of controversy.

The rest is history.


Anonymous said...

It seems most party bosses have some sort of job outside of politics. Parties in other parts of the state have lawyers as party chairs (Hamilton and Franklin counties) What does Alex do and what is his value to the party? As far as I know, he does little more in life except chair a minority party in a Democratic county and his lack of any marketable accomplishment other than being a party chair may be the reason why he has been overlooked by the Karl Rove's and George Bush's of the Republican Party despite raising money to give to national and state campaigns. An important task for a party chair, but no different than what a chair -especially a paid one - is supposed to do.

David McCann said...

I've thought about this, Abe, and am left scratching my head and have had to revisit this. Significantly - and I'll leave the rest to the local "political scientists" and historians ... for the real story ... and I'll only mention the heated controversy and the coin toss for Akron Municipal Court judge - Murphy vs. Spicer ...the underground waters were hot... hot... hot!

Anonymous said...

Anon - Arshinkoff was not overlooked by Rove. Not sure what you are talking about