As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had the opportunity along with the city of East Lansing to host the Mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc when he came to visit MSU in 2005. Since I was hoping to meet the Mayor on this trip, I offered to East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis and State Representative Mark Meadows that I would be willing to present Mayor Boc with a letter or gift from them. Mayor Loomis sent a letter along with a city of East Lansing Wind Breaker and Rep. Meadows sent a letter along with a state flag. Patrick had brought Loomis’s gift from Michigan and Meadows had his sent to me in Los Angeles.
Little did I know that during the time I was in Cluj, it was a few weeks before the local elections. The national election would follow the next month. In addition to serving as Mayor, Emil Boc was the head of the national ruling party. He was their Howard Dean. Along with his own election, he was traveling throughout the country and region trying to shore up his party’s chances in other local elections. Regional collaboration was a key issue and his party was running a candidate against the sitting incumbent of the county government. The Mayor’s people were confident of his reelection but were hoping to unseat the county chairman, which they acknowledged was a harder task.
Mayor Boc was very popular because of his aggressive economic development that created an environment for growth for the 400,000-person community. The city of Cluj is a hub for education housing many universities and colleges with a population of 100,000 among them. I never told people I knew the Mayor so when I asked their opinion I was given candid feedback. To the person they were highly supportive of him and the work his administration had done.
Because the Mayor was out of town for most of the time I was there, I began to think we would not have the opportunity to meet one another. I thought I would only see him on the election posters that were spread all through the town. Emilia told me not worry that they would figure out something because she knew he wanted to see me. We eventually found a window of time for us to meet. Since I was spending time with the delegation from Albania, I needed to be discreet. They didn’t have the opportunity to meet the Mayor and subsequently were hosted by the Vice Mayor. It might look bad that the former politician backpacker was meeting with the Mayor and not the official delegation.
The Mayor was his usual charming self. I presented the gifts from my Mayor and State Representative both who he had the opportunity to meet before. He was pleased to hear about their successful elections. We talked about my journey and then he had a glimmer in his eye. Because it was election time, his camera and video people were following him. He quickly handed me off to them and I was doing an interview about why I came to Cluj and the work I did with Habitat for Humanity. As an artful politician, he saw the opportunity to make this a story about our international connection between East Lansing and Cluj- a connection between the US and Romania. I was impressed. I wished him the best in the elections and then we were off to quietly join the Albanian delegation for lunch.
Postscript- Mayor Boc won his reelection 75% to 25% and his candidate beat the incumbent County Chairman.