Akron Mayor Gets Backing To Lead For National Group

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Mayor Don Plusquellic has cleared a key hurdle in his bid to become president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in two years.

The conference's nominating committee picked him on Saturday to become chairman of the group's advisory board. The vote came during the conference's 70th annual meeting in Madison, Wis.

Another vote on Monday is considered a formality, because the committee's choice traditionally has been elected advisory board chairman.

The position means he would automatically become vice president in 2003 and president in 2004, as long as he's re-elected to a fifth term as mayor in 2003.

Plusquellic (pictured, above) had only one opponent, Patrick Hays, mayor of North Little Rock, Ark.

"I really had a wonderful base of support from the nominating committee, and these are people I've established a very good working relationship with over the years," Plusquellic said. "It's an honor for me personally and I think it carries over to the city."

Plusquellic has been active in the group since being mayor in 1987 and is a member of its board of trustees.

"It isn't that I want to run for something and that it will look good on my resume," said Plusquellic, Akron's longest-serving mayor. "But I feel I've reached a point where I know so much and I can share it and provide leadership to this organization."

Plusquellic's election will shine the national spotlight on Akron, said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

"It gives Akron and some of the things that occurred here more visibility," he said. "In that sense, the city will benefit greatly for him having that kind of position."

While in Madison, Plusquellic met with mayors from Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo.

Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin said the big-city summit was long overdue.

"Some of us have been preoccupied with budget problems, and problems we've inherited from our predecessors," McLin said.

With new mayors in Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo, Democrats control City Hall in all of Ohio's major cities for the first time. However, Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and all five statewide executive positions.

Plusquellic said mayors can force state and federal governments to address local issues if they organize.

"I don't think we'll agree on everything," Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said. "But on education, economic development and tourism, we all have a common agenda."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)