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WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA Mercer's youthful mayor quits year early



Published: Mon, January 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Council has until the end of the month to appoint a new mayor.

MERCER, Pa. (AP) -- One of the youngest mayors in the country has resigned three years into his four-year term, saying he wanted to pursue opportunities outside of Pennsylvania.

Chris Portman, who was 19 when he took office in Mercer three years ago, announced his resignation in a letter dated Dec. 28.

Portman could not be reached to comment Sunday. His father, David Portman, said his son left for an out-of-state opportunity.

"He left on good terms, there was no problems or anything," the elder Portman said Sunday.

Portman's election drew the spotlight to the borough of 2,400 people. He met Donald Trump and President Bush, and was featured in Rolling Stone magazine and on news programs.

But the attention eventually died down and for much of last year, Portman wasn't as involved at council meetings, said Councilman John Zohoranacky.

"He missed a lot of meetings. In the past year, he's missed most of them," said Zohoranacky, who wasn't surprised by Portman's resignation.

Zohoranacky said he didn't know what Portman planned to do, noting his resignation letter asked council and the media to respect his privacy.

Council has until the end of the month to appoint a new mayor to serve the rest of Portman's term.

Despite Portman having missed most council meetings last year, Zohoranacky said Portman served well.

Center of attention

"I think he did a good job, especially the first couple years. He definitely got a lot of attention ... So that's good. And he did do a lot of networking. Acting as a representative of the community, he did a great job," Zohoranacky said.

"I wish him the best and I hope everything works out," he said.

Councilman James Carnes, a former teacher in his third term, agreed Portman was "pretty conscientious" in his first two years, but said he missed many meetings over the last year.

"I was somewhat disappointed that he did not live up to our expectation. He came in [and] he was fired up," Carnes said. He said Portman's ideas failed to pan out.

"I think when he was running, I don't think he realized the mayor had so little power," Carnes said.

The borough operates on a weak mayor system. The mayor can't make policy and can't vote during council meetings unless there's a tie; most of his power lies in enforcing ordinances and overseeing the town's handful of police officers.




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