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Council member dies day after collapse at city hall

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com  

; Rochester City Council President Dennis Hanson said it was fitting that one of Jean McConnell's last acts on earth was to review the city budget.

McConnell, who died Tuesday after suffering an apparent stroke during a council meeting, was a noted contrarian on the council, challenging what he saw as excessive public spending in the name of protecting the "little guy."

"To me, that's what he was all about," Hanson said. "He wanted to protect the citizens' pocketbooks.

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"He died doing something he loved," he said.

McConnell, 86, died at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday in the intensive care unit at Saint Marys Hospital.

McConnell, who represented Ward 3 in northwest Rochester since 1987, was rushed to Saint Marys by ambulance Monday afternoon after he collapsed in his seat in a conference room at City Hall during a meeting to discuss the 2006 city budget.

Council member Marcia Marcoux reported the news of his death to the rest of the council during a 3:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

McConnell was the oldest council member and the longest-served. He ran for public office several times before finally winning in 1987. He won election seven times in all, most recently in 2002, which he said at the time would be his last campaign. Colleagues on the council said Monday, however, that McConnell was gearing up for another run next fall.

A funeral is planned for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Pius X Catholic Church, where McConnell was a member.

Replacement plan

Meanwhile, the procedure for filling McConnell's vacancy on the council is well-established.

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In 2003, when council member David Senjem was elected to the state senate, and in 2004, when Dennis Hanson was elevated from his Ward 1 seat to council president, the council selected a temporary replacement.

In each case, the temporary council member was selected by a council vote. To replace Senjem, the council took applications and conducted interviews. To replace Hanson, the council simply appointed former council member Ed Hruska.

The temporary council member would serve until Ward 3 voters, in a special election, could elect a candidate to serve the rest of McConnell's term, due to expire at the end of 2006. City Attorney Terry Adkins said officials are considering whether to hold the special election at the same time as next September's primary to reduce election costs.

Finally, Ward 3 voters would once again cast ballots in November, but this time to select a candidate to fill a new four-year term starting in January 2007.

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