Havre de Grace mayor's call-in show keeps him in tune with constituents


When the rumor mill gets spinning in Havre de Grace, residents sometimes turn to Mayor Gunther D. Hirsch to find out what's true.

But residents don't always call him at City Hall.

Some wishing to speak to the mayor call him at Legends Radio WLG, 1330 AM, where he has a call-in show every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon.

Dr. Hirsch, 69, is the co-host of the hour-long program "Havre de Grace Highlights" for the small Towson-based radio station. He and disc jockey Rick Maxwell field calls from listeners wanting to chat with the mayor about issues affecting their community.

"I try to answer their questions as honestly as I can," said Dr. Hirsch, pulling scraps of paper with telephone numbers scrawled on them from his pocket. "When I don't have an answer, I always give them the number of someone they can call."

During last week's broadcast, the mayor did not have to rely on the names and numbers on those scraps of paper. Dressed casually in a short-sleeve black shirt and matching trousers, Dr. Hirsch answered questions from four callers, two wanting answers to rumors about Harford Memorial Hospital.

"With all this talk of a new hospital being built in Bel Air, I am concerned about the future of Harford Memorial," said one caller. "Do you think the hospital will close?"

"If I have my way it won't," Mayor Hirsch said from his seat in Studio A, a tiny room with peeling white paint and dusty brown drapes that have covered the windows since the Level Road radio station was built in the late 1940s. "I think we've finally made the point with the folks in Upper Chesapeake that we're very strong at Harford Memorial.

"Harford Memorial, which was always a good community hospital, is an even better hospital now," said the mayor, citing the facility's improved pediatric unit and a new psychiatric ward.

His comments calmed the fears of another caller, who was alarmed by rumors that the hospital's maternity unit was set to close.

"There are no plans to close the ward," Mayor Hirsch, an obstetrician who delivered babies for many years at Harford Memorial. "In fact, the facility is going to be upgraded and made more patient-friendly."

Mayor Hirsch has been on the airwaves for about a year. His show was suspended only once -- for about five months -- while he was campaigning for re-election.

"I enjoy doing the show. It's great fun," said the mayor, his tanned face sporting a smile. "It gives me exposure to the public, and gives the public a chance to call and have a lot of interchange."

Some of the interchange on Wednesday's broadcast concerned improvements Dr. Hirsch is hoping to bring to Havre de Grace.

"We're looking to open one or two collection stations in town," Mayor Hirsch told a caller who asked if the city was going to increase its recycling efforts, "so that people can drop off their recyclable cans and bottles, instead of accumulating them at home."

In his distinctive accent, a mix of German, French and Hebrew influences, the mayor said he also hopes to expand publicity of City Council meetings, which are held the first and third Monday of every month in City Hall.

He also wants to increase tourism in the city. As part of that effort, Dr. Hirsch introduced a guest speaker on Wednesday's show -- Eddie DiMauro, president of the Havre de Grace Independence Day Celebration committee. Mr. DiMauro told listeners about this year's Fourth of July festivities, which are being held today.

Although Dr. Hirsch makes the talk show seem easy, he cautions other politicians who may be considering an additional career.

"Not everybody can go on a radio show," said Dr. Hirsch, who has been mayor of Havre de Grace for seven years. "You have to be versatile in many subjects. People don't just ask you questions about current events, they ask you about other issues, too -- sometimes even about personal things."

"Havre de Grace Highlights" is a public service program of Legends Radio and is broadcast free of charge.

"Although we are owned by a Towson law firm, we want to maintain our ties with the local communities," Mr. Maxwell said.

Listeners wishing to speak with Dr. Hirsch during his show can reach Legends Radio by calling 575-6511 from Baltimore, 939-0800 from Havre de Grace or 642-2211 from Cecil County.

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