"I'm back!" the animated man in a loose-fitting patterned shirt and jaunty hat exclaimed with a broad smile. As I approached him on the sidewalk outside the Uncorked Wine Bar downtown, he repeated: "I"m back in my city."
Well, yes. Deeply tanned, apparently well-rested from his tortured exit and no longer in his dark mayoral suit, Don Plusquellic was mingling with others , one of whom asked him to take off his hat. When he did, it revealed a brush cut that had replaced his carefully groomed white hair that was a trademark of his Hollywood persona at City Hall. It was then that you came to realize that now out of the office he had occupied for 28 years, he was indeed tailoring hmself for a new life in the city.
Inside the noisy bar, a large crowd had come to the reception for Pete Nischt, the rising young Democratic party executive director who announced his candidacy for the Akron school board. The event was hosted by County Executive Russ Pry, who sat unobtrusively at the rear of the long narrow room to observe the festivities..
Nischt will need all of the support that he can muster in a three-way race involving Debbie Walsh, Alex Arshinkoff's executive director at county Republican headquarters and Ernie Tarle, Plusquellic's nemesis. Need I say more?
Although the former mayor said he might take some time to work for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, his political presence doubtless will be felt in his hometown as well as the University of Akron campus. More than one person remarked that Team Scarborough might have had second thoughts about an amateurish rollout of job cuts that downsized the school's academic credibility had Plusquellic, a feisty soul, been in its face.
No fault of interim Mayor Jeff Fusco, nor interim Democratic chairman Sandra Kurt, both temporary caretakers of city or party business, the dominoes fell quickly in the post-Plusquellic scramble. So the party will need an infusion of kinetic energy for the forthcoming mayoral primary race pitting Dan Horrigan against Mike Williams and Frank Comunale. I'm told Williams, an African American and perennial candidate, is already trying to fashion the contest into a racially acute contest. If he persists, it will create two ugly camps that will divide a city with a progressive reputation in race relations.
The voters need to know the stakes as Akron approaches a critical decision for its future. So welcome back, Mr. Plusquellic. Is there anything you can do about the city that you have long voiced with pride?