Frank E. Mann; 3-Term Alexan­dria Mayor

Blunt-Spo­ken Leader Steered City Through Dra­matic Growth of 1960s and ’70s

The Washington Post Sunday - - The Region - By Matt Schudel

Frank E. Mann, 86, an out­spo­ken, some­times caus­tic three­term 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 Al­lAmer­ica City in 1964. He was mayor in 1966 when the city’s 18th­cen­tury 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 re- turned, 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 was awarded 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 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.


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.

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