News last night that Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke would not seek a fourth term clearly surprised many community activists and elected officials, though some said the signs had been there for some time.
"I think he's tired of it," said Maryland Comptroller-elect Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor. "I don't think he really liked the job from the day he got in."
Former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who lost to Schmoke in the 1995 Democratic primary, thought for a moment last night about the prospect of Schmoke's not running again and then said, "Good for him.
"I'm surprised, but I think it's time," she said. "I think it's time for a changing of the guard, and perhaps he senses that too. My sense is that it is time for him to live his life for himself and his family, follow his heart, do what he likes. A little bit of public life goes a long way. Everybody has a right to a life, and so does he."
Schaefer, who never got along with the mayor, criticized Schmoke's performance over the past 11 years. "He had a great personality," he said. "He could come in and charm you to death, but he never followed up.
"He had a difficult time, but he was never able to do the things necessary to help a city of people. I think he had the chance to be the greatest mayor of the country. Everybody waited for him to show his brilliance. The community was very proud of him and overlooked his shortcomings, but he never lived up to their expectations because he listened to the wrong people."
Raymond Lowder, president of the Frankford Improvement Association, said he was shocked at first but that rumors around City Hall hinted at the mayor's decision.
Lowder said he had heard about people interested in running for mayor and that Schmoke was interested in buying land outside the city. "It was just all these little rumors that kept popping up that made me think he might not run again," Lowder said.
City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, a 5th District Democrat, said she is looking forward to new city leadership. "It's a bad time for Baltimore now because the fire went out of the mayor's belly," Spector said. "He's a fine man, but he's not gotten where he needed to be.
"A lot of it has been his staff; they didn't have the talent," she said. "The staff never seemed to know what was important to the mayor, and they didn't produce. Under Schaefer, the staff knew what was important: Make it happen now, and it did."
Democratic Councilman John L. Cain, a Schmoke critic from the 1st District, said the next mayor needs to "go back to the basics of running a city."
Cain said he would like the city's economic-development policies to expand beyond downtown. "And then they can get back to the business of getting rid of the rats and keeping the streets clean," he said. "We've gotten way far away from those things."
Pub Date: 12/03/98