Frank E. Mann; 3-Term Alexandria Mayor

Frank E. Mann at a baseball game in Alexandria. In addition to being mayor, he was on the City Council and served in the Virginia General Assembly.
Frank E. Mann at a baseball game in Alexandria. In addition to being mayor, he was on the City Council and served in the Virginia General Assembly. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2007

Frank E. Mann, 86, an outspoken, sometimes caustic three-term mayor of Alexandria who may be remembered best for bringing minor league baseball to the city, died April 25 of prostate cancer at his home in Old Town.

Mr. Mann was a powerful presence in Alexandria public life for decades, beginning with his narrow election to the City Council in 1952. He served as mayor from 1961 to 1967 and from 1976 to 1979, leading the city at a time of dramatic growth and change.

Mr. Mann, who was president of his family's potato chip company, began his political career as a Democrat and ended it as an independent. He served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1970 to 1975.

As mayor, he considered his greatest accomplishments the 1978 launching of the Alexandria Dukes, a minor league baseball franchise that lasted five years, and Alexandria's designation as an All-America City in 1964. He was mayor in 1966 when the city's 18th-century urban center was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and he oversaw the creation of the city's Department of Planning and Zoning.

A 1978 Washington Post profile described Mr. Mann as a "dashing figure who obviously feels comfortable in the role of mayor [and who] exudes confidence and decisiveness." A gifted speaker with a shock of wavy, silver hair, he could be "blunt-spoken" and was sometimes known for his sharp tongue. In meetings with City Council members, the Post article noted, he "frequently treats them and the city staff . . . with an air of disdain."

When Mr. Mann began his public career, Alexandria had a distinctly Southern feeling and was guided by a small core of civic leaders. As it grew more diverse, it became a magnet for young professionals who considered Mr. Mann's politics out of step with the times. He was not identified with Alexandria's powerful preservation movement and, as late as 1979, supported the demolition of the city's waterfront torpedo factory, which was refurbished as a popular arts center.

In 1978, as the city was putting its annual budget together, Mr. Mann was criticized for taking a fishing trip to Bimini. When he returned, he recommended a cut in property taxes -- something he did four times as mayor -- which would have required the budget to be reworked.

A week before Mr. Mann's final mayoral race in 1979, he proposed another property-tax cut, which the city's vice mayor condemned as "an act of irresponsible leadership."

Mr. Mann lost to Charles E. Beatley Jr. by a 2-to-1 margin and never held elective office again.

"The local papers did a hatchet job on me," he said after the election. "Beatley was portrayed with a halo, and I had a pitchfork. . . . I feel wiped out. I'm going fishing."

Mr. Mann was born in Atlanta on May 1, 1920, and moved to Washington as a boy. His mother was a descendant of Alexandria's historic Lee family. He graduated from McKinley Technology High School and was a 1941 graduate of George Washington University. During World War II, he served with the Seabees in the Navy and won a Bronze Star.

He then became an executive with Mann's Potato Chip Co., which was founded by his father. After the company was sold to Sunshine Biscuits in 1957, Mr. Mann stayed on as president of the potato chip subsidiary for 10 years. He was later president of the Potato Chip Institute International, a director of First Commonwealth Savings and Loan Association and a management consultant.

During his first two terms as mayor, Mr. Mann refused a salary, using the funds to set up the Frank E. Mann Charitable Trust for city employees seeking specialized training.

Mr. Mann was a member of Alexandria's Christ Church and was chairman of the board of the Alexandria Boys & Girls Club. He was belonged to several country clubs and yachting, charity and civic organizations.

He enjoyed singing and was president and director of the Alexandria Harmonizers, a barbershop chorus.

His marriage to Patricia Mann ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Anita Mann of Alexandria; a daughter from his first marriage, Patty Lee Briggs of Laurel; two stepchildren, Amy Mann Fang (who was adopted by Mr. Mann) of Arlington and Eric Izo of New York; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company