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Mayor isn't new to city

It was a different sort of 15 minutes of fame. In just that amount of time Friday morning, Fred G. Held Jr. went from average citizen to mayor.

Held, who on Wednesday stepped down from a commission seat he held for nine consecutive years, is on the board again.

"I hadn't contemplated that I would be up here on Friday morning," he said.

Held said he had intended to run for mayor in 1995. Now he'll get a taste of the office for a year as he completes former Mayor Barbara Gilberg's term.

Held's unanimous appointment by the four members of the City Commission followed Gilberg's official resignation Friday. Wednesday, she abruptly announced her plans to quit the commission, citing the outcome of Tuesday's election.

In that race, Joe Catalfamo, who recently resigned from a position as a real estate broker, and Dottie Wade, a real estate agent, were elected to the board. Gilberg said she resigned not because of them but because they "made it very clear that they favor the expansion of commercial interests (and) reducing the requirements of the redevelopment laws."

Gilberg had publicly endorsed Cliff Donley and Betty L. Keistler, who both espoused her philosophy of proceeding slowly with redevelopment.

Gilberg did not attend Friday's meeting, but more than 50 people showed up to see the proceedings.

The new commission cited Held's experience as a factor in his selection as mayor.

"As a commission we are very green," said Commissioner Al Edmiston. "We could use the experience of Mr. Held very badly."

Edmiston and Commissioner Lou Ippolito have been in office for one year. Catalfamo and Wade have never served on the commission.

Held was on the commission in 1981 and 1982 and from 1985 to 1994.

City Attorney Linda Hallas told commissioners and the audience that a person must be a resident of South Pasadena for at least one year and a registered voter to become mayor.

Held said that City Clerk Diane E. Orloff informed him Thursday of the contents of a memo sent to the commission by the city attorney. That memo mentioned Held as a possible candidate for mayor and said the full commission would have to decide whether his appointment would violate the city charter concerning term limits.

Friday, there was discussion about the charter, which says commissioners may serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms. They can run again after a break from office.

"The charter does not specify how long the break must be, and therefore he does qualify," Vice Mayor Catalfamo said of Held.

Edmiston publicly nominated Held as mayor. The other commissioners were asked whether they wanted to be considered for mayor. All said no. There were no other nominations.

With the unanimous vote for his appointment, Held approached the commission panel, coffee cup in hand, and with a prepared speech.

The audience rose to its feet and clapped and cheered. Camera flashes went off. And Held shook the commissioners' hands.

He then took the oath of office, with the city clerk presiding.

"Now you're official," Orloff said. She and Held embraced.

Held proceeded to read from his speech.

"I believe my main function in the next year will be to mend fences," Held said. "I honestly feel that in the past several years there has been a concerted effort to divide the people of this city into categories, of "You want this and I don't want that.' I think more resolution of our city issues and problems should be resolved instead of characterized.

"However, I know each of these commissioners and they all have independent ideas that I'm sure they are going to bring forth this upcoming year, but how nice it will be to disagree without being disagreeable."

Held, 67, was born in New York City. He attended Pennsylvania State University and graduated from Pierce Business School in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of the Life Underwriting Training Council.

He is retired from Prudential Insurance Co., for which he worked 28 years. Part of that time he worked in Philadelphia. He is a member of Elks Lodge 1224 in St. Petersburg. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren and has lived in South Pasadena for 15 years.