By Frank Lewis
It was, as they say, De ja vu all over again Monday night at Portsmouth City Council, as City Solicitor John Haas handed Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Kalb the gavel of the mayor of the city of Portsmouth.
Several weeks ago, Portsmouth Mayor Steve Sturgill resigned because he was moving outside the city limits. First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson, as vice-mayor, was expected to move into Sturgill’s role and run City Council meetings. But a short time later, Johnson announced he was stepping down as vice-mayor, leaving a vacancy.
At Monday’s meeting, Haas opened things up by entertaining nominations for the position of acting mayor. Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler nominated Kalb and Kevin W. Johnson nominated Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows. Haas said he would put up the candidates in the order in which they were nominated, and Kalb was first. When he received a majority of the votes, the election was ended and Haas crossed the room and ceremoniously handed the gavel to Kalb.
It has been an odyssey for Kalb from when his political career began to where he is now. Kalb came onto the scene when he was first elected to City Council in the Fourth Ward the first time. He was president of Council when then-Portsmouth mayor Greg Bauer was recalled, and assumed the job of mayor while the city was still under the strong mayor form of government.
Kalb served the remaining two years of Bauer’s term and was re-elected, served a term, then lost his bid for a second term to Jane Murray. Murray was also subsequently recalled by voters. Meanwhile, Kalb was away from the political scene. Then, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerrold Albrecht chose not to run for re-election, and Kalb again threw his hat in the ring and was again elected the the Fourth Ward post.
Monday night, in many ways, Kalb had come full circle, though the acting mayor’s position under the new city manager form of government, is largely symbolic.
“I had sent a letter out expressing my interest because I knew that Kevin (W) Johnson had resigned,” Kalb said. “I had no idea who else was interested in it or anything else. I was pleased. I talked to my wife about it and she wasn’t exactly for me being mayor again, or acting mayor but I assured her it wasn’t anything like the first time I was mayor. It’s a totally different position.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.