LONSBERRY: Alexander Out, Smith In As Rochester Deputy Mayor

 Rochester City Hall will announce this midmorning that Cedric Alexander will leave his position as deputy mayor at the end of the year, and be replaced by current city Communications Director Jim Smith.

 Smith is a former deputy Monroe County executive, and also served as county manager of Seneca County.

 Alexander is a former Rochester police chief; public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia; sheriff’s deputy, and University of Rochester assistant professor.

 He also served on a policing task force for President Barack Obama.

 Alexander and a City Hall source say that the long-expected departure was driven by Alexander’s desire to move to Florida to care for his elderly and infirm mother.

 That may be a factor, but it is probably not the entire explanation.

 Rachel Barnhart has reported on gurgling accusations against Alexander – which may or may not be true – and rumors of intrigue have been a staple almost since his arrival.

 The timing of the announcement – the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – sure makes it look like something the administration is trying to hide or brush past.

 City Hall gossip has long had Alexander on the outside of Mayor Lovely Warren’s inner circle. He said he was her friend when he came and he is still her friend as he leaves. But it is also clear that much of his expertise was not brought to bear in city governance. Though he is a nationally prominent law-enforcement expert, for example, he has not been particularly involved with the police department and was pointedly left out of the mayor’s recent efforts in regard to a civilian oversight board.

 Cedric Alexander is philosophical about these things, but also clearly hurt by them. He is a big man sitting at too small a desk.

 His discouragement was redoubled this spring when his keen desire to run for Congress to replace Louise Slaughter was smashed by Democrat bosses, including Lovely Warren. He has not really recovered from that disappointment.

 And as his time in Rochester comes to an end, he – at 64 – speaks of the “great ride” he’s had over his 40-year career. The word used by Alexander and City Hall is “retirement.” Frankly, though Alexander uses the word, he uses it sadly. He does not sound like a happy man, and this possible end of his professional life is far short of the gold watch and retirement badge old cops might otherwise embrace.

 My thought on the whole matter is that I really like Cedric Alexander. I think I understand him, and I admire his strengths.

 I also admire the strengths of his replacement – Jim Smith. A one-time Republican, he worked for Congressman Tom Reed, briefly ran the Monroe County Water Authority, was county communications director, was thrown under the bus during the Maggie Brooks administration, and went to trial on six misdemeanor charges of official misconduct – all of which ended in acquittal.

 He has been around a long time, and he has been wounded and worked his way back. A big part of that was the chance given him by Lovely Warren – who, at the suggestion of Arnie Rothschild, hired him away from Seneca County.

 She had to be talked into it, and she refused to consider him until aspects of his personal life apparently made her consider him a workable fit for a Democrat administration, but she did give him a chance.

 And now he will be her Number Two.

 And that makes sense.

 He has a broad background in almost every corner of government and administrative responsibility. He has served a Democrat administration, he has served a Republican administration, he has been a non-partisan county manager. And he has seemingly earned the mayor’s trust.

 And that’s the necessary requirement to be deputy mayor.

 I am sad for Cedric Alexander. He is my friend. But, for whatever reason, he didn’t fit with Lovely Warren.

 And deputy mayor is the one job where that’s not acceptable.

 The deputy mayor serves entirely at the mayor’s pleasure, and that’s the way it should be. The position is shaped and filled at the mayor’s prerogative, as that person has the responsibility of helping her administer her responsibilities and agenda as she sees fit.

 And Cedric couldn’t do that.

 There’s a pretty good chance Jim Smith can. And should a circumstance arise in which Lovely Warren were to leave office before the end of her term, there’s a pretty good chance Jim Smith would be a good mayor.

 So whatever the inside story is, the move makes sense, and the interests of good government are probably served.

Dr. Cedric Alexander (left) and James Smith (right)


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