Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Long-serving mayors are unique

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Art Baldwin as mayor of Waite Hill. By my calculation, he has held the office for about 45 years. But don’t hold me to that. Sometimes I can off by a year or two when I’m counting on my fingers.

And it’s beginning to be hard imagining anyone other than Dave Anderson as mayor of Willoughby. He was first elected in 1991, so you can do the math. I think he’s closing in on 20 years.

I know that Cecil Todd and Bud Brichford were both mayor for a long time, but Dave is on track to catch up with Art Baldwin.

But by the time he catches him, Art will have been mayor for close to 70 years — provided they both keep running.

And there is no reason why they shouldn’t. They are both doing everything the voters could ask of them. Running against either man would be foolish as well as a waste of time and money.

Which brings me back exactly to where I started thinking about long-serving mayors. It was a column about two mayors with staying power, written by Brent Larkin in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He spoke warmly of Paul Cassidy, now 92, who was elected mayor of Parma Heights in 1957, served 43 years and retired undefeated in 2000 without ever breaking a sweat.

His other subject was John Coyne, now 94, who was elected mayor of Brooklyn in 1947 and lost a re-election bid in 1999. That must be about 52 years, again relying on finger-counting.

Obviously, they were enormously popular in those two suburbs on the southwest side of Cleveland.

They could probably relate numerous reasons for their success. And so could Art Baldwin and Dave Anderson. All of them would talk about good services and programs, efficient government, quality safety forces, responding quickly to citizen complaints, plowing the snow, picking up trash and everything else that residents demand.

But I could tell you something else about the kind of classy people Cassidy and Coyne are that might not occur to you: It has to do with dealing with families and kids.

First, let me set stage for my tale. In 1959, I was either city editor or managing editor of The News-Herald, I’m not sure which. Our parent company, Bolton Publications, owned two weekly papers — the Parma News and the Brooklyn News. I was sent over there to be the editor of them.

After 15 months I was brought back to The News-Herald as executive editor. But that brief span was an exciting time in my newspaper career, and it wasn’t just because the Indians traded Rocky Colavito while I lived in Parma.

I was literally a one-man staff on those two papers. Oh, we had an office manager, two secretaries and two or three ad salesman. But I did everything else. I was editor, reporter, sports writer, fashion editor, photographer and copy boy.

We didn’t have a printing press. That was at our paper in Dover, where I drove every Wednesday to supervise the makeup of the paper. Our office was above the Parma Hardware store at Ridge and Pearl Roads. We sent all our news and ad copy to Dover by Greyhound Bus.

Because of my status at the two papers (they were really the same paper with Page 1 and Page 4 changed), all the big shots in town wanted to take me to lunch. Only on Wednesday did I refuse.

About the third day I was in the office, where I developed film in a closet, Paul Cassidy paid me a visit. He introduced himself as the mayor of Parma Heights and told me all I could ever want to know about his city. And he asked me a lot of questions about myself.

One of them was, "How many kids do you have?"

"Two," I replied. No. 3 wouldn’t arrive until the following February.

"Here," he said, reaching into his pocket, "are four swimming pool passes. The city has a great pool. You’ll enjoy using it."

Not long after that, John Coyne called. One of his questions was the same: How many kids do you have? Two, I told him.

"Bring them over to the Brooklyn Fire Station," he said. "I’d like to show them the fire truck. Kids love it. And I’ll give them fireman’s hats."

Soon we went over. The kids got to give the fire engine a good look-over, and the mayor gave them bright red fireman’s hats made of pressed cellophane. And photos were taken.

Cassidy was a Republican and Coyne a Democrat. They were — and are — great Americans who knew how to win elections.

And they both liked Pete’s Wayside Inn for lunch. So did I.

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