Mayor Bill Schirf traveled nearly a marathon Friday - about 23 miles, according to an online route calculator - in his "Walk Against Crime" through the city's 26 neighborhoods.
He had to stop to buy an umbrella at the Dollar General on 31st Street in the early afternoon, when it began to rain before he was halfway done.
But temperatures were lower than during mid-week, so he could be comfortable as he greeted and chatted with those he encountered on the sidewalks or the institutions and businesses he visited, like a king among his subjects or a complaisant old-time politician among his constituents.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Altoona Mayor Bill Schirf walks along the 3900 block of Fifth Avenue as part of his “Walk Against Crime” trek through all of the city’s neighborhoods on Friday.
One of the reasons Schirf took the walk was to demonstrate that Altoona is a safe and friendly city.
He also walked to thank the voters for electing him to City Council for eight years and to highlight the virtues of those neighborhoods - identified in the city's recently finished comprehensive plan, he said.
Although it might have had the appearance of campaigning, it wasn't, said Schirf, who isn't running again because of his wife Kathy's health.
"I've had my day in the sun," he said.
Stops included UPMC Altoona, Holy Rosary Church, where he was married, Juniata Elementary School, which his children attended, and Veterans Field, where he played baseball as a youth and a young man.
"The hills are tough, but I'm tougher," he said at the ballfield. "I'm invigorated."
Downtown, at Saleme Insurance, where he stopped, he was "warm and friendly and shook my hand," said Michele Wine, a customer service representative.
Apropos of his walk's stated purpose, she complained about frequent loitering at Heritage Plaza next door.
The loiterers begin gathering before noon, youths and young adults, mostly males, sometimes skateboarding, sometimes yelling, sometimes swearing, Wine said.
"They're not doing anything bad bad," said Wine, who is from Pittsburgh and not easily intimidated.
But customers mention it, both men and women, she said.
"I think they are concerned," Wine said. "I won't say frightened. Maybe a little apprehensive."
She took Schirf over to the plaza gazebo to show him exactly where the loiterers congregate, and where they remain when the Saleme workforce leaves at 5 p.m.
The mayor said he'd check into it.
Over at the Devorris Center for Business Development, Schirf introduced himself to a receptionist, asked about upper management - none of whom were in at the time - then spoke with Chris Hite, executive assistant and office manager for Altoona Blair County Development Corp.
Schirf said he "marveled" at the work ABCD does for the community.
Hite said she appreciates how hard the mayor works, then turned to Schirf and said, "We appreciate all you do, seriously."
By the end of the afternoon, he was in Hileman Heights, with a few neighborhoods left to cover, but headed in the general direction of home.
"It's one of those things I'll only do once," Schirf said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.