OK, he's 85. But Maryland's irrepressible comptroller, Louis L. Goldstein, says he's not ready to give up the job that has made him a one-man political institution.
Goldstein declared yesterday that he has "all the enthusiasm of youth" as he began campaigning for his 11th consecutive term, shaking hands, handing out gold coins and telling old friends and new, "God bless y'all real good."
"I'm running for re-election with a lot of pep," he told supporters at a small noontime rally outside the state office complex in Baltimore. "By that, I mean energy and enthusiasm. But I also mean a commitment to service that is prompt, efficient and personal."
Except for four years as a Marine during World War II, Goldstein has held public office since 1938. Though he reminisced a bit yesterday about the four decades he has spent in the state treasury building now named after him, he mostly looked ahead.
By next year, he said, Marylanders will be able to purchase software that will allow them to file their income-tax returns directly from home computers.
He also said he will expand the state's direct deposits of tax
refunds. Currently, only taxpayers who file electronically through accountants can get their refunds deposited into their bank accounts.
Decades of service
Maryland's folksy, popular tax collector has served longer than anyone else in state government; his staff says Goldstein can claim the title as the longest-serving state official in the country.
Will Goldstein ever step down? Only a few years ago, he said he planned to retire. But after the death of his wife, Hazel, in 1996, he changed his mind.
Yesterday, he hedged on whether this would be his final campaign, saying only that he is focused on this fall's election.
No Democratic challengers have stepped forward, perhaps unnerved by the 1994 primary in which a well-financed Rockville lawyer, James B. Moorhead, advertised heavily on radio and television, only to lose to Goldstein by a 2-to-1 margin.
Goldstein has one Republican rival, Timothy R. Mayberry, a Washington County resident whom he easily defeated four years ago.
First elected as a young lawyer to Maryland's House of Delegates in 1938, Goldstein has been a politician ever since -- still traveling across the state to make about 300 speeches a year.
When he enlisted in the Marines in 1942, a family friend gave him a Bible and wished him well, saying, "God bless y'all real good."
The friend's parting words have become his trademark refrain, repeated in every campaign, starting with his successful bid to join the Maryland Senate in 1946.
He has been Maryland's elected financial guardian since 1958, collecting taxes, overseeing the state's payroll and sitting on the three-member Board of Public Works, which approves all major purchases and loans in the state.
One of his duties is to take care of the state's computer system, and though Goldstein doesn't own a computer, he takes pride in being one of the first to recognize the year 2000 glitch. The state's computers, he said, have been almost completely reprogrammed for the next millennium.
Some of the friends and reporters who gathered around Goldstein after his announcement yesterday wanted to know his secret for a long, active life.
He said he learned to work hard as a boy at his parents' store in Prince Frederick. He exercises religiously, swimming about an hour a day.
"I don't smoke. I don't drink. I don't go out with anyone's girlfriends or wives," he said, adding he hopes to grow at least as old as his grandparents.
"All of my grandparents lived to be 100 or so," he said. "I've got great genes."
Pub Date: 6/24/98