Thursday, February 12, 2015

Al Teodosio, a man of peace (1924-2015)

During the years that Al Teodosio wore the badge of Summit County Democratic chairman,  he looked out at a local political landscape that was charged with internal combustion.  There were newly arriving party rivals seeking preferred honors as the city and county were  shifting away from decades of Republican control in the better offices.  It also was a time when unions jealously held powerful influence in the division of political labors.  A candidate, even at the City Council level, who ignored the fiery presence of URW chief Pete Bommarito, could  expect indecorous condemnation. Organized labor never failed to have its say.

That was the  state of being that Teodosio   inherited in 1976 when the party decided to have him succeed Robert Blakemore, himself a mystical 24-hour-a-day player in  moving Democratic candidates into his comfort zone.  But he did so quietly and with so little fanfare that most diners in the next booth hardly knew it..

So it was only natural that as a guy on the political beat at the Beacon Journal I met Al regularly with questions about his political health in the forever simmering environment where king-size egos where plotting at every turn.

To many questions he would respond with a tight-lipped smile that could be interpreted as pleasure or pain.  But as you got to know this dapper, trim-figured lawyer, you decided that he was good man and that was that.  Besides, I never knew him to lie to me, or even embellish a point.  It was the sort of honesty that doesn't  come easily to some politicians.

"He won awards by making peace," recalled State Sen.Tom Sawyer, one of Al's young disciples who went on to become Akron's mayor and eventually congressman.  "I have referred to Al as avuncular"-  not a household word to be sure,  meaning "uncle-like"

It was Teodosio, after all, who persuaded Sawyer to run for mayor in 1983.  Sawyer was hesitant because Robert Otterman had taken steps to be the party's candidate.  "Al assured me that even if there would be a primary contest, it  would not turn into a knock-down drag-'em-out fight and neither candidate would get hurt. Sawyer won and defeated Republican Mayor Roy Ray.

Actually offended by the muck of politics, Teodosio succeeded in upgrading the level of discourse  within his range.   "He was an all-time referee," Sawyer says today.

Al was sorely tested at times by the Republican chairman (and still is!) Alex Arshinkoff, whose political resume is  frequently ruptured by temperamental  outbursts.

So yes, Al Teodosio's passing at age 90 recalls a good man who cared about the sensitivities of others in carrying out his mission.

In Sawyer's precise words. a man who made peace.  May he now rest in peace.

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