By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun
8:57 AM EST, November 17, 2013
Mike Pantelides can't go anywhere these days without being stopped.
Walking down Main Street to a meeting, he meets people offering ideas. At a post-workout stop at the drug store, someone wants to talk to him. In the Market House, a merchant offers a fresh fruit smoothie — on the house.
That's what comes with being mayor of Annapolis, population 38,620. It's a city small enough that residents get to know their politicians on a first-name basis, and they aren't shy about voicing concerns.
Pantelides, a Republican, squeaked out a 59-vote victory over incumbent Democratic Mayor Josh Cohen in this year's election, a contest that went all the way down to absentee and provisional ballots.
Though Pantelides won't be sworn in until Dec. 2, he's already beginning the transition from a young, relatively unknown software salesman to chief executive of Maryland's capital city.
"I'm looking forward to getting in and hitting the ground running," he said.
His to-do list is quite long. Pantelides is forming transition teams, considering the people he may want to hire at City Hall, brushing up on his Robert's Rules of Order, setting up meetings with the city's aldermen and tying up loose ends at his day job — which he's leaving when he becomes mayor.
He has met with Cohen, who he said has been gracious with advice and offers of assistance during the transition. Cohen announced Thursday that he has asked developers of the controversial Crystal Spring mixed-use project on Forest Drive to halt any new submissions to the city until Pantelides is in office.
As of the middle of last week, Pantelides also had a mountain of correspondence to tackle: 125 unread text messages and 651 unread email messages.
"I hate this — not returning messages fast enough," he said.
The new mayor-elect got a quick introduction to the drama of Annapolis politics.
Just two days after Pantelides won the nail-biter election, Alderman Ross Arnett was quoted as saying he was considering reopening the debate over whether the city should switch to a council-manager form of government. The city manager would report to the city council, instead of to the mayor, reducing the mayor's authority.
Some saw the proposal from Arnett, a Democrat, as an attack on Pantelides, though Arnett said that wasn't the case. The story went national on talk radio and other media outlets, and resulted in Arnett disconnecting his phone because of all the negative calls.
The two talked and cleared the air, both men said. And though they disagree on the issue of governance — Pantelides thinks the current system works just fine — the two say they can get along.
"We'll sit down with the new mayor. We've got to give him a chance to get going," Arnett said.
As he gets going, everything Pantelides does these days is punctuated by well-wishers.
Shawn Steele, who works at the Annapolis Organic Market and Smoothies in the Market House, jumped at the chance to congratulate the mayor-elect when he walked through the downtown landmark recently.
"I'm excited; I like new blood," Steele said.
He thinks Pantelides can build on the positive momentum in the downtown, which he said started when Cohen finally succeeded in reopening the Market House for good. Before this summer, Market House had been open only intermittently since it was damaged by Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.
Steele makes an observation that many have noticed about Pantelides: "He's so young."
At 30, the mayor-elect acknowledges many voters questioned his credentials.
"Who are you? What have you done? Why should you be mayor?" are some of the questions he was asked on the campaign trail.
Pantelides, who once worked in ad sales for The Baltimore Sun and The Capital, said he looked at the campaign through the lens of his experience as a salesman. Instead of selling newspaper ads or software, he was selling himself.
He had to sell himself against a known quantity. Cohen has spent a dozen years in the public eye as an Annapolis alderman, Anne Arundel County Councilman and mayor.
"It was a huge uphill battle," Pantelides said.
He said he thinks he erased concerns about his youth once people heard him speak or saw his videos posted online.
He said people got over the "30 number."
When the Embassy of Greece called with congratulations for being elected mayor at a young age, Pantelides was ready with a culturally appropriate quip: "I'm a little behind — Alexander the Great conquered the world at 27."
As a relatively young mayor-elect, Pantelides is planning some changes in his personal life. He's unmarried and living with roommates — a situation that he plans to change.
"The mayor needs his own place," he said jokingly.
But with so much on his plate with government and politics, a home search may have to wait.
"It's on my to-do list," he said. "It's, like, eight items down."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun