Susan Weiner, 66: First female mayor of Savannah

Susan Weiner once played 17 different women in a stage play that toured internationally. And though her academic background was in theater arts and education, she made a name for herself in politics, becoming a well-known Republican activist and the first woman elected mayor of Savannah.

Mrs. Weiner, of Rabun Gap, died Saturday at Northeast Georgia Health System of complications from arterial surgery. She was 66. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. Arrangements were handled by Little & Davenport Funeral Home, Gainesville.

Known as a trailblazer for women, Mrs. Weiner (pronounced Why-ner) was elected mayor in 1991 and lost her bid for re-election by fewer than 260 votes.

In 1996, she helped U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell establish the Coverdell Leadership Institute, a training program designed to increase the number of Georgia Republicans in elected and appointed government positions. Then, in 2004, Gov. Sonny Perdue named her as the executive director of the Georgia Council for the Arts, a position that allowed her use her political knowledge to bolster theater and other arts.

"She was a remarkable human being," said her sister, Linda Scher of Brooklyn, N.Y. "As family members, we knew her as the sister who was the youngest, but she had another life. She did so much more."

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Mrs. Weiner hailed from New York and moved to Savannah in the mid-'80s with her husband, Albert B. Weiner. The couple was drawn to the coastal area's sultry beauty, they told an Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter during a 1994 interview. So after failing to find a job -- "People kept telling me I was overqualified," she said at the time -- she worked on a number of local and national Republican campaigns before she decided to run for office.

After her time as mayor of Savannah, she worked as a political consultant before Sen. Coverdell pressed her into service to head up his institute, a position she seemed to be perfect for, said Linda Parker, an institute graduate.

"And she was good at what she did," Mrs. Parker said.

Leslie Gordon, director of the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University, knew Mrs. Weiner for the better part of 20 years and remembers her as a "very gutsy woman."

"She was articulate and passion and strong," said Mrs. Gordon said. "And, because she was fearless, she often engendered opposition."

Mrs. Weiner resigned from her post at the Georgia Council for the Arts in February 2011, and had been working on a project with one of her sisters at the time of her death.

"She put her all into everything she did," Ms. Scher said of her sister. "And, because of that, she changed people's lives."

In addition to her sister, Mrs. Weiner is survived by her brother, Dr. Irwin Scher of Wynndwood, Pa.; sister, Toby Elman of Clifton Park, N.Y.; and a stepson, Lucian Weiner of Amsterdam.

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