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Mayor chided over appointment

(ran Beach edition)

Seldom does the appointment of something so innocuous as a vice mayor prompt charges of petty politics.

But in this city, where emotions are high as candidates recover from the March 12 election and prepare for another April 2, eyebrows are raised among the politically inclined.

At a commission meeting Tuesday _ the first since Ward Friszolowski was elected to a second term as mayor _ Friszolowski appointed Commissioner Peter Blank to be his vice mayor. The vice mayor runs meetings in the mayor's absence.

Trouble is, Blank hasn't been elected to another term _ at least not yet.

"I think it's a little presumptuous on their part," Bill Allard, who is running against Blank in the runoff election, said last week.

Friszolowski said he was not trying to endorse Blank in the commission race or improve his chances of winning by appointing him vice mayor. In fact, the mayor said, he isn't sure why being vice mayor would be an advantage for Blank.

Friszolowski explained it this way: Because John Phillips, the former vice mayor, did not run for re-election, a new commissioner, Julie Christman, took his place at the first post-election meeting on Tuesday. That left the city without a vice mayor.

"I hate to say it, but what if something happened to me?" Friszolowski said.

Friszolowski said in his first two years as mayor, he appointed the most experienced commissioner to be vice mayor: first, Jim Myers, and then, John Phillips.

That track record would have led him to appoint Blank for the next year. Friszolowski said he decided not to delay that decision, even though Blank's future on the commission after April 2 is uncertain.

"The provision is that the vice mayor would become the mayor, and I wanted to make sure that we were covered," Friszolowski said. "We don't want to go without a vice mayor."

Friszolowski said he tried to make it clear that his selection of Blank was not political by pointing out that Lolly Kreider, the commissioner from District 4, will be vice mayor next year.

"That wouldn't make a bit of difference in my mind as a voter," Friszolowski said.

But still, Allard and some of his supporters are skeptical.

"They're rather bold," Allard said. "They do whatever they want. It's disappointing, but not surprising."

Allard, Blank and Ed Ruttencutter ran for the District 3 seat on March 12, but none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote. According to the city charter, the two top vote-getters _ Blank and Allard _ must compete in a runoff April 2.

Blank received 341 votes March 12; Allard, 283 votes; and Ruttencutter, 212.

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