Recovering from emergency bypass surgery, Wilmington mayor to take oath for second term

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki is recovering from bypass surgery but begins his second term Tuesday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki is recovering from bypass surgery but begins his second term Tuesday. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki is a 75-year-old former college football star who still exercises regularly. After handily winning a second term in November, he prepared to take the office for his second term this Tuesday.

Purzycki will still be inaugurated to serve another four years, but it will be done as he convalesces from the emergency coronary bypass surgery he underwent Wednesday morning.

The six-hour heart operation was needed because testing conducted after Purzycki recently had his annual physical revealed serious “blockage of some of his arteries,’’ deputy chief of staff John Rago told WHYY News on Monday.

Rago, who said he spoke with his boss by Zoom about an hour earlier, said the mayor’s recovery is on schedule. “He knows he has to take it easy,’’ Rago said. “That’s major surgery, heart and arteries, but he’s looking forward to getting back to 100% at some point.”

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Rago said Purzycki was discharged from Christiana Hospital early Monday afternoon and will take the oath from his home in the Highlands neighborhood.

The inaugural ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. and be broadcast Tuesday night during City Council’s 6 p.m. meeting, likely accompanied by a message from the mayor about his vision, goals, and plans for the next four years.

Rago added that President-elect Biden and his wife Jill have spoken with Purzycki’s wife Bette “to check on how he was doing.”

Outgoing Council President Hanifa Shabazz had been put on standby Wednesday in case official business had to be conducted while Purzycki was in surgery, though none was needed.

Shabazz said she spoke with the mayor Thursday. “He sounded very concerned about the city, still talking about city business and got right back on duty,’’ Shabazz said. “He sounds good. I feel confident that he’s going to come through with flying colors and not miss a beat in running the city.”

Shabazz, the first woman elected to be Wilmington’s Council president in 2016, but lost her bid for re-election to Councilman Trippi Congo, also joked that she considered herself Wilmington’s first acting female mayor while Purzycki was getting his bypass.

“So my last duty as president was to serve as acting mayor, which was truly historical to me,’’ Shabazz said with a laugh.

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Though Shabazz did not officially hold the title of acting mayor, under the city charter the council president would become acting mayor if Purzycki became temporarily disabled or needed a leave of absence.

Also, under the city’s charter, should the mayor have to resign for health reasons or die in office, the council president would serve the remainder of the four-year term.

Council members would then select the new president from the 13-member body and a special election would be held to fill the new president’s seat.

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