His office in Annapolis is decorated with medals he received from the Marines and pictures of Maryland politicos, the American flag, Pope John Paul II and Bo Derek.
When he drives down the streets of his hometown, District Heights, people stop to chat with him in Italian, ask him for a recommendation for a job or say, "Has anyone told you they love you today?" mimicking the phrase he often uses to greet people.
Francis J. (Frank) Aluisi, with his rotund frame, sliver of a mustache and smiling brown eyes, is a mainstay of Prince George's County folklore, the kind of character who gives Prince George's verve and diversity.
Aluisi headed the old county commission from 1968 until his defeat in 1970. By that time, he had become the political symbol of an administration that was blamed, though not always justly, for many of the zoning decisions that resulted in the sprawling construction of squat warehouses, commercial strips and hundreds of low-income housing projects in the county.
Since then, he had held no major county posts until the County Council approved his appointment last month as chairman of the board of the new nonprofit corporation that will run the county hospital system.
"In a sense, Frank has been vindicated," said attorney and Democratic Party activist John Lally, whom Aluisi once appointed to a task force on youth.
Those who forgot what Aluisi was like in the old days got a reminder the day of the ceremony inaugurating the new hospital corporation: "I just want to dispel any rumors," he said, "that I have taken a nursing course, so if things don't go well with the hospital staff, I can give them all enemas."
A few minutes earlier, he was gleefully telling another board member, a minister, about an order of Catholic priests that put an advertisement in Playboy to reach some potential recruits. Then, introduced to a new reporter in the county, he told the story about the reporter who tried to interview him when he was chairman of the county commissioners.
"I told him to get the hell out of my office," Aluisi said, laughing until his belly shook.
Aluisi became a member of the Prince George's County Commission, the predecessor of the current council-executive form of government, in 1966, at a time when the county was changing from a largely rural jurisdiction to a rapidly expanding bedroom community for federal employes.
He described his polical bent as "liberal-conservative," promised an "eyeball-to-eyeball relationship" with the people, and warned, in the wake of the riots in the District, that anyone who attacked a Prince George's policeman would "be hurt, period."
It was not a particularly glorious time in the county's political past: The tax rate rose to new highs, there had been a great deal of rapid, unplanned development, and one of the commissioners, Jesse Baggett, was indicted (and eventually convicted by a federal jury) in connection with zoning cases that came up before Aluisi's time.
Aluisi chaired the commission for two years, serving with former Congresswoman Gladys Spellman, former councilman Francis B. Francois and businessman M. Bayne Brooke.
Since then, Aluisi, now 62, has served as District Heights' building inspector, a position his brother-in-law, the former mayor, gave him. It paid $60 a month. He also got a $39,302-a-year job with the state, from his sometime-friend Marvin Mandel, as a troubleshooter for the department of licenses and permits.
He said he mostly tries to help people who are not getting the results they want from the department.
"Is this the ugliest man in Maryland? Oh hi ya, Smitty," he jokes, returning a call from his office in the basement of building across from the State House. "We're going to go to public works and see if we can't get that permit shook loose for you, okay?"
His work with the state and with the hospital corporation often brings him to the county office building in Upper Marlboro, where many of the rank-and-file employes remember him well.
"Che cosa fai what are you up to ?" he says in Italian, greeting an old constituent at the county office building recently.
The man gives him a warm handshake and asks him, in Italian, how he has been. "Basta che ha la salute it's enough to have your health ," Aluisi answers.
"I speak Italian every chance I get," explains Aluisi, who grew up on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest Washington, where his immigrant parents owned a grocery store. The greatest hurt he says he suffered in his political career was not his defeat, but when someone called him "the Mafia" during a public hearing.
Aluisi was appointed to the hospital corporation by the County Council and nominated to be its chairman by former state senator Meyer Emmanuel, who is also on the board. "Frank's a gutsy guy," Emmanuel said. "He comes out with some choice language. He doesn't have his pinky up in the air. You can always see which way the punches are coming from and I like that."
As a policymaker on the hospital board, Aluisi says he would like to see the county hospital system concentrate on providing "affordable family care." He says for the "more exotic, the heart transplants and such," people can go elsewhere.
Aluisi says he likes to think of himself as a man of the people--he makes a point of shaking hands with the people who wait on him in restaurants or serve food at official functions. But in his Annapolis office is an extensive file of newspaper clippings about his administration and photographs of him shaking hands with Italian government officials, former first lady Rosalynn Carter and several Maryland officials.
His son, James, is now the county sheriff. In public, Aluisi refers to him as "the sheriff," rarely Jimmy, as the sheriff is universally known.
The sheriff says his father has never tried to run his son's political affairs. The only advice he gave him, the sheriff said, was this: "He says to me, 'Jimmy, whatever you do, don't ever embarrass the family name . . . because if you do, I'll break your legs.' "