Edie Segree keeps the Mary Poppins umbrella her colleagues gave her stuck in a closet.
But her perky optimism never goes away.
The candidate for a District 30 House of Delegates seat remains the high school cheerleader who dated the captain of the football team, made good grades and always smiled.
She's still having fun, only now politics is the game she's cheering.
"I love people; that's what's so exciting about being in politics," she says. "I don't know of anyone anywhere I really dislike.
"Life has been wonderful for me," says Segree, 49, an appealing woman with a silver bob and blue eyes. She leans forward at her desk in the County Council offices, where for eight years she's been an aide to Councilwoman Carole B. Baker. On this day, the mother of four has paired pearl earrings with a blue and white dress with a big flower on the front, and she's talking fast, happy talk.
Growing up in Mount Holly, N.J., Segree enjoyed "one of those wonderful families," complete with a dentist father, a home-making mother, two siblings and a summer house at the beach.
"I consider myself very lucky to have had choices all my life," she says, reaching to tap some balloons put up for a going-away party. "It's made me a very upbeat person."
This is, perhaps, an understatement. Segree has something chipper to say about everything, from her fund-raising dessert parties to campaigning door to door.
"People know me. That's the reason we have a lot of community support for the campaign. They know I'll work hard and try to get things done," she says.
Segree likely needs all that enthusiasm for what she admits may be a tough race. A Democrat, she is one of five candidates for three open seats in District 30 this year. Incumbent Democrats John Astle and Michael Busch are heavily favored to win re-election. That leaves Segree vying with two Republicans: former state senator Aris T. Allen and Edgewater resident Philip Bissett, a warehouseman for Giant Food Corp.
"I think it's going to be a very tight race because Dr. Allen is very well-known, but she's on a ticket (with Astle and Busch) and I think that's going to be very effective.
People may vote in a bloc," predicts Gilda Atas, former Democratic Central Committee chairwoman.
And Segree has two qualities going for her in the Nov. 6 general election, say supporters and opponents: She's nice, and she works hard.
"Hard as the dickens," says Barbara Neustadt, one of her opponents in the primary race. "That hard work is what I think is her strongest point."
Carole Baker praises Segree's legislative skills, as well as her personality. "It's that ability to be with people. She's very comfortable to be with, relates well with the voter. Every person she meets is a vote," Baker says.
Her community involvement first drew Segree into politics. After graduating from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in sociology, Segree married her college sweetheart, Allan, a manager for Westinghouse. They have lived in the same house in Bayberry on the Magothy for 25 years. There Segree re-created her own idyllic childhood with her husband and children. The kids biked, went swimming and crabbing and enjoyed having their mother home, says Segree.
In those years, she collected a long resume of neighborly activities.
She served as president of PTAs at three Broadneck-area schools, earning the nickname "Mother of Broadneck Senior High" because of her successful efforts to secure state funding for the school.
She served as delegate to the School Board Nominating Convention, as vice-president of the Greater Arnold Recreation Council and on the Lower Broadneck Federation, an umbrella group of community organizations.
Segree was a scout leader for three years and troop service director for Girl Scouts of America. She serves on the county Board of Education's Guidance Advisory Council and on the county Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council.
"I did all that stuff, and neighbors often suggested I run for office," she recounts.
Now that her children have grown up, she's going campaigning.
In 1982, Baker ran for office and asked Segree to work on her campaign.
After the campaign, Segree stayed on as Baker's legislative aide.
Two years later, Segree, a member of the Republican Central Committee, changed her party affiliation. "I just found they were so conservative, I was like a radical to them," she explains. "I'm probably a fiscal conservative, but on social issues I was lining up with the Democrats."
When Baker announced she was leaving office to accept a full-time position with the United Way of Central Maryland, Segree decided to run for delegate.
"Everyone (of my colleagues) said go for it, and I knew they would tell me if they didn't think I could handle it," says Segree.
In a campaign that has been labeled one of name recognition, rather than issues, Segree worried at first that citizens outside Baker's council area wouldn't know about her. "I didn't have name recognition, but we got the name out," she says. "We've been door to door for four months, and we've gotten a lot of money from small contributions. People getting to know me, that made the difference."
Along with incumbent Democrats Astle and Busch, Segree sees the environment as a major issue of the campaign, and pledges to work for mandatory recycling. She's a strong advocate of more drug treatment and education programs.
But her strongest asset, Segree says, is her community service.
Community leaders who've worked with Segree laud her work in south county over the years. Maryellen Brady, president of the London Towne Property Owner's Association, says she thinks Segree will be an excellent delegate because she knows the county and knows the people.
"I think she'll listen and be a hard worker. There are lots of different types of public servants, and Edie is one of those people who will take the initiative to do public service," Brady says. "I think she'll respond to community needs by coming up with imaginative ways to solve problems. She's always been there for us when we needed her."
One drawback may be Segree's lack of political experience. She, typically, calls that an asset. "I don't have a record, so there's nothing to criticize, really," she says.
However, Republican opponent Phil Bissett criticizes Segree for her special-interest endorsements. She's been endorsed by Maryland National Organization of Women, The League of Conservation Voters, the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO and Maryland Classified Employees Association.
"I tend to shy away from those endorsements. My campaign focuses on the middle-income tax-payer. But she's picked up many of these special-interest endorsements," Bissett says. "Plus, she's teamed up with the Democratic leaders, and they'll vote as a bloc. No independent thought."
Segree, however, underlines her pride in working with her fellow Democrats. "I'm so pleased to run with John and Mike, great guys," she says. "They've welcomed me as part of their team."
As Election Day nears, she remains optimistic, speaking of the fun she's had at fund-raising events, such as a gourmet dessert and coffee get-together, and a fried chicken/blackened fish party with a bluegrass band and plenty of children in attendance.
The time away from her own family is hard, and if she wins, she'd be even busier, Segree acknowledges. "We're all starting to get tired. When I win -- everyone gets mad when I say IF I win -- I know life would be different."
For one thing, the legislator's lot has its hard moments. She'd face tough decisions that would make some constituents unhappy, Segree says.
"I like people; I like them to like me," she says. "But the ultimate decision would be mine, and I'd have to say -- 'Sorry, if you don't like that.' I think I would be able to handle that."
If she loses? She'll have her family and her friends, and a family trip to Orlando, Fla., scheduled after the election.
"Life's gonna go on," Segree says. "I sure want to win, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world. You don't know what the voters will do. You just concentrate on the work and do the best you can.
"We'll know in a week!"