Harry Baals a big hit

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – To see new video, click the play button on the left side of the screen.

Renaming a government center after a former Fort Wayne mayor, Harry Baals ended up on national and even international media’s radar recently, complete with its fair share of interesting headlines to go along with it.

Thousands of people voted online to name the new city-county building in his honor. But that probably won’t happen because of his name.

Originally city officials said they didn’t want to be the butt of late night T-V jokes.  But now that the national spotlight is on Fort Wayne, they’ve had a change of heart, saying they couldn’t be happier.

“Anytime we get an opportunity to let people know we’re here, we’re on the map, and what we’re doing I think is a good thing,” said Fort Wayne Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy.

NewsChannel 15 tracked down the former mayor’s son Donald Baals (pronounced “Bales”) Friday.  When asked what he would think about the new government building being named the “Harry Baals Center,” he laughed and said that’s why he changed the pronunciation to “Bales.”

Donald said Harry Baals really isn’t a good name for anything.  80 years ago it really wasn’t an issue.

“It didn’t seem to bother anybody,” said Donald.  “He was often known by H.W. So why don’t you go with H.W. Baals?”

ABC CBS and NBC  all ran stories Wednesday about the name candidate.

Jimmy Kimmel  and Rush Limbaugh even chimed in on their shows.

Harry Baals (pronounced Balls at the time) served several terms as Fort Wayne’s mayor in the 1930s, 1940’s, and died while in office in the 1950s.

“Harry Baals apparently was a great mayor. That’s what I’m hearing,” said Fort Wayne Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy. “People are very serious about what he did as mayor. The family is part of our history,”
Jim Baals, Harry’s great-great nephew, said he’d be honored to have the new city-county building named after his uncle. “I think it would put us on the map for one thing. I know there’s been a lot of controversy about it. I think a lot of people are going to snicker about it and laugh. But after it dies down, I don’t see any problem.”

The headline creativity that comes with the unusual name has also become part of the story. Here is a list of some Harry Baals headlines that have some snickering:

– Harry Baals gets rubbed as name of new government building

– Fort Wayne officials refuse to slap Harry Baals on public building

– Harry Baals to get scratched 

– Scratch Harry Baals off list of names for govt. center
City leaders have said they’re looking for a name that represents both the city and county.

Online voting continues until Friday.

NewsChannel 15 talked to Anthony Juliano from Asher Agency in downtown Fort Wayne. He specializes in advertising and public relations.

“If you try to change the conversation you look like you’re not in on the joke and everyone is just going to laugh even harder. So you have to acknowledge what’s funny about it and move on from there,” said Anthony Juliano, Asher Agency.

The mayor will talk to community leaders about the online suggestions and a decision should be made about the building’s name by the end of February.

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