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He walked miles in his sandals for council win

June 08, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA.

House-to-house campaigning not only won Frank Salzano enough votes to finish third in Tuesday's seven-way race for five seats on the Shepherdstown Town Council, it also taught him how to tie a necktie.

Salzano, 22, who lives in a walk-up apartment at 110 E. German St., earned a council seat with 164 votes, according to unofficial returns. That total was seven votes more than Mayor Peter Wilson, who stepped down from the top post to run for the council, and 12 more than incumbent Councilman Howard Mills, who won re-election.

Salzano, who enters his fifth year as a Shepherd University student this fall, was talked into running on the night before the filing deadline by John Meeker, another council aspirant who lost his bid Tuesday.

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"John and I were talking at the Meck (the Mecklenburg Inn, a popular local bar) and he said he would run if I did, so I went down the next day and filed," Salzano said.

He developed his own campaign strategy; first by rounding up fellow Shepherd students who lived in town, plus his young town cronies, and got them to register to vote.

"I called them all Monday to remind them to go to the polls," he said.

Salzano put together a brochure outlining, among other things, his platform of socially, economically and environmentally responsible development coupled with building better relationships between the council and community organizations.

"I believe in grass-roots politics," he said.

He took his message door-to-door and that's where his political education really began.

He found that people would listen as well as offer their opinions, he said.

He also got some nourishment in the form of iced tea, sandwiches and other goodies on his campaign trail along with a bit of fashion advice.

"One woman gave me a necktie (his only one) and taught me how to tie it. I wore it when I went into the town's more affluent neighborhoods," he said.

He saw no need to impress voters with a necktie in some other neighborhoods, he said.

"About 30 percent of the residents in Shepherdstown live below the poverty level," he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, sitting on the wall of the university's McMurran Hall, Salzano wore his signature Guinness ball cap, black T-shirt emblazoned with the word Peace in Arabic, Hebrew and English, shorts and sandals.

Salzano rolls his own cigarettes using organic tobacco.

He said he's looking forward to his council service and hopes to connect with the "real" people of Shepherdstown.

"I'm going to use the L.B.J. (former President Lyndon Baines Johnson) style of politics," he said. "I'll be knocking on the doors of members of the town's commissions and committees lobbying them about my ideas for better planning, correcting some flawed zoning regulations, pushing for more responsible development plus talking to them on how the town can do its part for global warming by promoting more walking and bike riding.

"The town needs to take a more proactive role in these things," he said.

Salzano pledged to serve out his two-year term, even if he graduates next May. He said he'll keep his job as a waiter at the Blue Moon Cafe and will continue to take courses at Shepherd.

"I'll be around," he said.

Georgia Lee McElhaney, who has been involved in town politics for 32 years, said she doesn't recall a student being on the town council.

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