Friends fare well in county politics Councilmen regarded as Towson's version of 'The Odd Couple'


Driving to Ocean City recently, Kevin Kamenetz dialed Sam Moxley from his car phone and delivered the ultimate summertime taunt: "I'm on my way to the beach -- and you're not."

It was one of many conversations the two Baltimore County councilmen share daily in Towson's political version of The Odd Couple. Kamenetz, who is Jewish, was educated at Gilman and is well-known for his forcefulness; Moxley, Catholic and a graduate of Mount St. Joseph's College, is more laid-back.

Together, this bachelor duo represents the western slice of the county, from Owings Mills to Halethorpe, not only as colleagues but also as best friends.

They double-date, gossip endlessly and give each other "the look" to rein in egos run amok. They even drive the same kind of car, county-owned Mercury Cougars, and share a mechanic who can't quite figure out which wheels belong to whom.

"We've been called the Bobbsey Twins of Baltimore County," said Moxley, 37, a Catonsville Democrat in his first term, citing the title bestowed by former state Sen. Francis X. Kelly. "We work well off of each other -- Kevin always has a good idea, and it's good to have somebody to bounce things off of."

So far, no sticky issues have come between these politicians, lawyers who met in 1982 while serving on the state Democratic Central Committee. Rather, they often attend meetings together and jokingly pass the microphone when it comes time to pass the buck.

"We were at a fund-raiser at Martin's West," said Kamenetz, 39, who represents Pikesville and Randallstown. "And Sam got up and welcomed everyone to his district. I took the microphone and said, 'When you step outside in the parking lot, you'll be in my district.' We're that close."

The Kamenetz-Moxley friendship and working relationship is well-known in the marbled corridors of the county courthouse, seat of the local government -- but not everybody sees it as an advantage.

"My mother taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all," said Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, of the friendship. "I think discretion is the better part of valor."

Others, though, see a more positive side.

"They have respect for each other," said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "I've seen them on numerous occasions where they've been on different sides of an issue, like when Kevin voted to combine the departments of finance and budget and Sam opposed it.

"Their friendship does not mean things are automatic. But this is a tough business. Because of their relationship, they have trust and have fun."

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, said the Kamenetz-Moxley friendship has set a tone and helped the entire council work as a team.

"There's just a general attitude of cooperation among all members," Gardina says. "Personal friendships help the working environment."

And Bob Barrett, a special assistant to Ruppersberger, said he has watched the two blossom from novices on the state Democratic Central Committee to elected officials.

"Both have a caring side," Barrett said. "On the central committee, both were watchdogs for taxpayers' money. That concern flowed over into their work."

Moxley, who was born at Bon Secours Hospital, graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School. Kamenetz, born in Baltimore, spent most of his youth in his father's Overlea pharmacy where he stood on a crate to work the cash register.

Both love children -- Kamenetz is a summer camp counselor at Camp Airy, and Moxley plays Santa Claus each Christmas at the Junior League holiday pops concert. They both love politics. And they also share a love of kibitzing during meetings -- a habit that has irked fellow councilmen so much that Kamenetz and Moxley now just pass notes.

Critics say Kamenetz, an admitted control freak, often dominates in his friendship with Moxley, whose Jimmy Stewart-like qualities have endeared him to many.

Kamenetz disputes the charge.

"Those kind qualities are the things that I admire in Sam -- the things that I wish I had more of myself," he said. "We complement each other. Sam knows when to tone down my personality, and I know when to beef his up."

Moxley, who will marry Mary Jo Huppmann on Oct. 18, jokes that Kamenetz was first to approve of the pending nuptials. "Kevin knew the day before I got engaged," Moxley joked. "I had to get permission."

In return, Moxley offers constant advice on Kamenetz's love life.

The two councilmen plan to toast Moxley's marriage as only best friends can.

"My wedding gift will be to leave them alone for two weeks," Kamenetz said. "But after that it's back to business as usual."

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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