Schaefer wants to help local officials statewide solve their problems; Invitation not limited to public works issues


Continuing to broaden the scope of his new job, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has invited local officials to bring him their problems.

The invitation, sent in a Feb. 17 letter to leaders across the state, was open-ended.

"Bear in mind that we need not limit ourselves to those matters that come before the Board of Public Works," he wrote, referring to the powerful state panel on which he sits.

"I want to hear about issues that are important to you and your constituency and, if possible, help you solve problems."

The former two-term governor and four-term mayor of Baltimore has made clear since taking office a month ago that he has an expansive view of his job. He criticized Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's handling of the City Life Museums. He challenged Gov. Parris N. Glendening's handling of a sprawl-control program.

Now, in his letter to council members, mayors and county executives, Schaefer says he hopes "to solve problems, create new opportunities and help make Maryland an even greater place to live and work."

"It sounds like the comptroller wants to be a partner with local officials," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "That's good news."

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said he found the initiative welcome, predictable and vintage Schaefer.

"He ran the state for eight years, and he revitalized the city," Ruppersberger said. "There's a lot to learn from this gentleman. I've always tried to emulate his policies."

He said he did not see the letter as evidence of a significant departure from the practices of past comptrollers. Ruppersberger said he and the late Louis L. Goldstein conferred often on a wide range of issues.

"Louie and I had a close relationship. He called me on a lot of different issues," Ruppersberger said.

In his letter, Schaefer said he had asked his chief of staff, R. Dean Kenderdine, to contact top administrators in the offices of local officials "to begin a dialogue about ways that we can work together and ensure effective lines of communication. I want to hear about issues that are important to you and your constituency and, if possible, help you solve problems."

If the comptroller was moving into Glendening's turf, a Glendening administration source said, "it is not totally unexpected."

Schaefer has been signaling for some time his intention to take the comptroller's office into the economic-development sphere.

Glendening welcomed the comptroller's assistance.

"He certainly appreciates the willingness of the comptroller to help solve people problems, and the governor looks forward to working with him," said Ray Feldmann, the governor's press secretary.

"Sometimes," said Kenderdine, "state regulations and practices are problematic for businesses."

Of the possibility that the comptroller might find problems in the governor's domain, Kenderdine said, "It's one thing to learn of issues and another to determine the rightful role in addressing them. The comptroller wants to be an advocate for Maryland's business community, and he intends to be helpful to local government and to people of the state wherever he can."

Sun staff writer Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/27/99

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