You can call Howard Wexler the "special friend" of former Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson. Mr. Anderson does.
And you can call Howard Wexler "radar," like former County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson does. It still makes Mr. Wexler smile.
But if you want to speak to the county government's impish internal mailman and political confidante, you'll have to phone him at the Randallstown home he shares with his elderly mother, Doris.
After 29 years wheeling his wooden mail cart from office to office, he's retiring this month -- along with more than 100 other county workers in a retirement incentive program.
The program, designed to trim the county budget, includes a retirement credit for unused sick leave and full medical benefits for those lacking the 30-year service requirement. If 150 people retire by the final day, Feb. 29, the county expects to save about $5 million a year.
"Howard's a close friend," the blunt Mr. Anderson said from his winter retirement quarters in Florida. "I once told the 12th District Democratic club that if I had a man like Howard in every precinct in the country, I could be president."
Mr. Anderson, who invited Mr. Wexler to his 50th wedding anniversary party, was referring to his former employee's outgoing nature and sense of loyalty.
When Mr. Anderson was down, convicted on federal corruption charges and imprisoned in Allenwood, Pa., 20 years ago, Mr. Wexler drove there five times to see him, and always stayed in touch.
Despite the mild cerebral palsy that hampers him, Mr. Wexler and his parents -- more recently, just his mother -- became fixtures at local political fund-raisers and gatherings since the late 1960s. In November, he and his mother were at a table in a Reisterstown restaurant as County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III roasted his campaign manager.
"It was fun," Mr. Wexler said, beaming a smile.
The late Baltimore state Sen. Harry J. "Soft Shoes" McGuirk was another favorite, and Mr. Wexler recalls fondly his Forest Park High School days with producer Barry Levinson, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Baltimore's other "diner guys."
His adventures in the halls of government are legendary. Mr. Hutchinson recalled, "The first big blizzard , I got to Towson and it looked like a ghost town. Nobody was around, but Howard was there, ready for work."
Last week, Mr. Wexler made his rounds on his last day at work. "I know Dutch will be lost without me, but life must go on," he said.
His ambition now is to achieve that coveted public status: a double dipper. His Baltimore County pension ensured, he already has applied for a mail carrier's job at another local government.
Who else is leaving
A number of prominent county employees are taking the retirement incentive, including:
* J. John "Jack" Dillon, 53, who helped conceive and plan the rural conservation zones that kept suburban sprawl from eating away even more of the county's farmland. He was also the primary planner who helped make Owings Mills a bustling new town center. More recently, he worked to revive southeastern Baltimore County, where his idea of building a commercial waterfront project finally is coming into favor.
* C. Richard "Dick" Moore, 55, who was charged with keeping snow and ice off county roads. Before that, he was responsible for the traffic lights and stop signs that rule drivers' lives.
* Stanley J. Schapiro, 71, who was the county's chief legal officer for two years, and a top county lawyer for 22 years. He helped find a regional approach to disposing of the trash residents leave on their curbs each week. And the mirrored Public Safety Building on East Joppa Road was purchased using an agreement that he crafted.
* Robert C. Book, 51, who for more than 26 years kept the county's police and government fleet rolling from an underground garage in central Towson.