New mayor sees Annapolis as potential 'Athens of the East'

Minutes after being sworn in as the new mayor of Annapolis on Monday, Mike Pantelides vowed to be a watchdog on city finances, and also to work on issues facing the state capital from crime to a sluggish business climate.

In his inauguration speech at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Pantelides offered few specifics on those broad issues, but did promise to hold open sessions once a month to listen to concerns of Annapolis residents, and repeated a refrain from his campaign, that "God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason" — saying people should spend twice as much time listening as talking.


Pantelides, a 30-year-old Republican, unseated incumbent Democrat Josh Cohen, 40, in an election that went all the way to absentee and provisional ballots. Pantelides squeaked out a 59-vote victory.

He said he'll scrutinize the city budget, work with leaders of other levels of government and focus on expanding and promoting existing businesses in the state capital.


Pantelides said growth doesn't need to come at the expense of the environment, a reference to the proposed mixed-use Crystal Spring project on the edge of city limits that many are concerned will damage the environment and exacerbate traffic problems — though developers have touted jobs that will be created. The new mayor also made general references to working on city drug problems and helping seniors and people with special needs.

With the capital city's historical and cultural significance, Pantelides said Annapolis can become the "Athens of the East" — a line that earned approval from the audience, which included Greece's ambassador to the United States, as well as a representative from Cyprus. Pantelides traces his family history to Greece and Cyprus.

Anne Arundel Clerk of the Circuit Court Robert Duckworth swore in the new mayor, ending with: "Mayor Mike, congratulations!"

After being sworn in, Pantelides swore in the eight members of the Annapolis City Council: Joe Budge, Fred Paone, Rhonda Pindell Charles, Shelia Finlayson, Jared Littmann, Kenneth Kirby, Ian Pfeiffer and Ross Arnett. All but Paone are Democrats.

Though he officially became mayor Monday, Pantelides already has named two members of his administration. Rhonda Wardlaw will continue as public information officer and Timothy Murnane, who was part of Pantelides' legal team during the election, will serve as city attorney.

Pantelides said after the ceremony he'll soon name leaders of transition teams. Naming department directors may take longer, he said, because he wants to interview all current directors before deciding who should stay on.

In an interview, Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman said the two already have discussed ways the city and county governments can collaborate and perhaps share more services to save money.

"I think it will be a great partnership, and it's starting on the right foot," said Neuman, a Republican.