By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — It’s hardly an overstatement when Mayor Joseph Kuspa said that the retirement yesterday of city clerk Thomas Alexander represents the end of an era.
“The Alexander name is virtually an institution in Southgate,” Kuspa said of Alexander’s leaving office after 24 total years of service. Thomas’s father, Robert, was the previous office holder and the two held the title for 42 of the city’s 55 incorporated years.
Alexander knew retirement was inevitable— he opted not to again seek office and will be succeeded by lone candidate Jan Ferencz following the November general election — and Kuspa said that Alexander submitted on Tuesday a resignation effective Saturday. The absence of a father-son legacy in the clerk’s office that began in 1967 will take longer to process, Kuspa said.
“They both served with integrity,” Kuspa said. “He’s going to be missed, along with the institutional knowledge he takes with him.”
Alexander said that education began early, at the dinner table in a family with an active interest in all things political. Alexander first sought the clerk’s office in 1985 to carry on after Robert had died in June of that year at age 56.
“I learned it early on from my dad,” Alexander said. “I knew something about the position even before I ran for office.”
Alexander held office until 2001 when he took a four-year break before being coaxed back in 2005.
It’s a position that changed over the years, from the technology of manual ballot entry to setting up laptops at precincts, from the days when his office kept three full-time staffers busy to recent times when budget reductions resulted in a single full-time employee keeping pace with part-time help.
“He did a terrific job under trying circumstances,” Kuspa said, where taxpayers didn’t suffer from lack of service. Alexander said that the city’s overall approach of preparedness helped weather the economic storms.
“There’s been a lot of changes over the years,” Alexander said. “Teamwork is how we survived: working together and everybody on the same page.”
Alexander and his wife, Susanne, soon will move to Florida, where her parents and his mother reside.
He said he’s prepared for whatever comes next.
“I’ll miss the people,” Alexander said. “I’ll miss it all. I’ve lived here since I was 4 years old, but I’m also looking forward to another chapter in life.”
Kuspa said that council Wednesday will begin consideration of an appointed, interim clerk until the general election.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)