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FUROR FOR A CAUSE

Frank Janczlik, undeterred by 14 previous unsuccessful attempts at a City Council seat, is at it again.

As always, he is stumping for desalination.

For years the 82-year-old builder has been a fixture at government meetings, hammering on the same theme: Seawater desalination is the only solution to the region's water shortages.

Only recently has that idea gained more serious attention.

So will voters now see Janczlik as a man ahead of his time and elect him to office?

Or will they see him as the man who once threatened to beat up School Board members, introduced himself as "Rumpelstiltskin from Nova Scotia" at a candidate forum and penned hundreds of unsigned, no-holds-barred letters to government officials and newspaper editors, including one in which he wished "double cancer" on a columnist suffering from colon cancer?

Janczlik is a perennial office seeker who has never won election, though he did swing the Democratic primary in 1994 when he ran for the legislative seat now held by state Rep. Debra Prewitt.

Some say this run for New Port Richey City Council, his 15th, could be his best shot at getting elected.

"I'd say his chances are good because there are five people running for three seats; two of them are incumbents," City Clerk June Bottner said.

That prospect disturbs former New Port Richey Mayor Bob Prior.

"That's scary," said Prior, assistant principal at Zephyrhills High School. "Everybody who has been around Frank for a long time knows that he can be eccentric and off the wall."

Janczlik says his critics just don't understand him or his ideas about desalination.

"They don't like me talking," he said. "They don't like me saying anything against them."

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Why he is running for City Council?

"I want to run for desalination plant," he said. "I want to build it with two lines. I want the plant to be waterproofed. Rust-proofed. I can do that."

Janczlik, who lives with his wife on Oelsner Street in New Port Richey, proposes to build the plant himself. "I have a bonding company that would accept my request to bond that building."

He said he did not know the name of the company. "They called me two to three years ago," he said.

The plant would result in cheaper water rates for city residents and protect the environment, he said.

How would the city be involved?

"The city has nothing to do with it. I don't want anything to do with the city. To me, the city means nothing because I know more than this city will ever know."

Janczlik, a native of Old Bridge, N.J., said he became an expert in desalination while working as a naval officer on board a transport ship during World War II. The ship, which toured the Mediterranean Sea, was equipped with its own reverse osmosis plant for converting saltwater into drinking water, he said.

He said he received a bachelor of science degree from Rutgers University in 1937. A Rutgers official could not confirm Janczlik's degree but said the university's records at that time were not reliable.

Janczlik said he moved to Florida 41 years ago. He married, had two children and built a career not in desalination, but as a building contractor and surveyor. One of his more well-known projects included replacing the slab and walls on the city's former band shell in Sims Park.

He holds county licenses for general contracting, plumbing and electrical work, but said he works only part time.

That leaves plenty of time for politics.

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Over the years, people have raised eyebrows at Janczlik's behavior at meetings ranging from City Council to School Board.

In 1990, when he ran for mayor of New Port Richey, he introduced himself as "Mark Tanner" when he spoke to school officials about their budget.

The same year he introduced himself as "Rumpelstiltskin from Nova Scotia" at a candidate forum and then left before the forum began.

Prewitt recalled that shortly after she was elected to the City Council in 1989, Janczlik threatened a fellow member of the city's former board of appeals and adjustment.

"It was something along the lines of, "Come out into the parking lot and we'll take care of this,'

" Prewitt said. "As a result, the city did not reappoint him to that committee."

Prior recalled a similar incident in the mid-1980s when "(Janczlik) called all the ladies on the School Board to go outside for a fistfight. He was upset. He challenged everybody."

Janczlik has long been a fixture at New Port Richey City Council meetings, where he typically talks about water issues and his plans for desalination.

"He shows up at every meeting," New Port Richey Mayor Peter Altman said. "He certainly follows the City Council closely, but it doesn't seem that he's listening to what we're doing because he seems to make the same message over and over again. . . . You know, if you repeat yourself 11 years in a row, people tend to tune you out."

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When Janczlik is not attending government meetings, he is busy writing letters to politicians, water regulators, newspaper columnists and reporters.

Janczlik says he writes letters daily from 3 to 9 a.m. "just for the heck of it."

The letters, handwritten and sometimes 10 pages or more, usually focus on water issues and often are unsigned. They describe the environmental damage caused by overpumping of Pasco's well fields, cite his expertise in desalination and belittle the person's knowledge of the subject, often calling him "stupid" and "dumb."

"You know nothing," he likes to write.

Why not sign the letters?

"They know who I am," he said. "They know my writing."

Some of Janczlik's letters have alarmed recipients.

For years, he would send anonymous letters to Times reporters and editors, wishing them prostate cancer. In 1992, after Times columnist Jan Glidewell wrote about having colon cancer, Janczlik sent him a letter wishing him "double cancer."

Last year, various Swiftmud employees received several anonymous letters in which the author said repeatedly, "I will eliminate Swiftmud," and in one letter added: "I will have the know how. I will do it."

After confirming that the half dozen letters were from Janczlik, Swiftmud officials contacted the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in April 1996. The Sheriff's Office sent a deputy to speak to Janczlik about the letters, Swiftmud spokesman Michael Molligan said.

"We just wanted to make sure there was no intention to do any violence, and apparently there wasn't, but the wording was ambiguous enough to cause us concern," Molligan said, noting the letters came after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

About the letter to Glidewell, Janczlik said his cancer remark was justified.

"That's excusable. I have no cancer. My pressure is good. . . . He wrote something that did not concern where he works."

Janczlik said he was not concerned about how others reacted to his letters.

"I don't care if it's abusive," he said. "I did a lot of fighting in my time."

_ This report contains information from Times files.

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