Lois Frankel Leaves Office With a Legacy of Going From Great to Angry

Just like the city that she governs, we've had a love-hate relationship with West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel.

In the past ten years, we've called her the best local politician, labeled her Frankelstein, and blamed her for the death of a neighborhood. Truth is, she's an enigma -- a politician with brains and incredible promise who simply doesn't give two shits about whom she pisses off.

This week, Frankel gave a State of the City speech that was more of a goodbye. So as she wraps up the Frankel era, here are our most memorable Lois Frankel moments.

5. Early Love
As a state representative, Frankel became a rallying cry for sanity after Florida's embarrassing election debacle of 2000. New Times named

her Best Politician in our Best Of Broward-Palm Beach issue in 2001, lauding her as "an ardent feminist with a keen ear for smart political talk." The following year, our Best Of issue labeled her failed bid for governor as having Best Intentions. We wrote: "Thanks to our Lois, the world realized that every Floridian isn't crazy -- only those House leaders whose names rhyme with weenie." We had no idea what was coming.

4. West Palm's "Next Mayor Speaks"
In 2002, we gushed about Frankel's bid for mayor and the boatloads of endorsements coming her way. She ended the interview by summarizing her time in Tallahassee by boasting: "I'm moving on, knowing that democracy occurred because I, along with all other Democrats, maintained a rational point of view against those who outnumbered us."

3. The "Next Ex-Mayor"
Things had changed for Frankel -- and our perception of her -- by the time we checked in with her in 2005. Roadwork in downtown West Palm had choked the life out of Clematis, and businesses were closing in droves. "Halfway through her first four-year term as mayor, Frankel can claim few visible accomplishments," we wrote, noting that "Frankel has earned scorn for what critics say is an often-misguided, hair-trigger temper." (Writing those lines earned this writer such scorn later when Frankel spotted me at a West Palm 100 gala -- she poked her finger in my chest during a very public berating.) Still, Frankel proved us wrong and earned a second term.

2. Enter Frankelstein
In 2007, Frankel had earned praise from supporters and disdain from critics for her City Center project, a massive structure that now occupies a block of Clematis and holds City Hall and the library. A grand jury report had also called into question her $400,000 reelection campaign, although the report stopped short of saying she had broken any campaign finance laws. A New Times reporter trailed her for several days for this profile -- and also learned firsthand about that famous Frankel temper. The incident was described this way: "Mayor Lois Frankel delivers a threat the way other people deliver a kiss. She glides in close, into the personal space normally known only to lovers."

1. The Death of Northwood
By 2009, when we published this piece on Frankel's fight with the activists in the Northwood neighborhood, her temper had become legendary. If she doesn't like you or your cause, locals know, you're done. Carl Flick and his neighbors in Northwood knew that all too well, blaming Frankel for fighting efforts to revitalize the neighborhood, apparently due to personality conflicts. From the story: "Frankel's animosity toward Flick and his grassroots development projects would eventually kill his bright plans. The good intentions of preservationists would turn neighbor against neighbor, merchant against merchant, citizen against politician."

Frankel, at least, is leaving office with optimism. During her State of the City speech, the Palm Beach Post quoted her as saying: "There may be some clouds in the sky today, but we have a future full of sunshine because together we are laying the foundation to create a very special place that promotes economic vitality."

It's no mystery who created those clouds.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton