Ditching most of his usual large entourage, Gov. Parris N. Glendening sampled the charms of small-town Maryland yesterday, strolling down Main Street in New Windsor, where he chatted about history and admired turn-of-the-century homes.
Residents, who had never seen a governor in their town, turned on the hospitality. They lobbied for sidewalk repairs, showed off their Victorian-era homes and baked him a cake -- complete with the town seal in icing.
Ostensibly a private visit with the town's Republican mayor, Jack A. Gullo Jr., the tour gave residents an opportunity to bring up local issues.
As Glendening walked down Main Street, 91-year-old Mary Crawmer sat across the street on her steps, applauding. She was happy to see the governor, she said, but she was also glad to see her friend, Sarah Baile, putting a word in the governor's ear about the town's sidewalks.
"I've never seen it," she said of the governor's visit. "And I came out to see him."
Baile was telling the governor that her 1861 home in the 200 block of Main St. "was built just before the [Civil] war and actually occupied by the Confederates."
Glendening, a former Prince George's County executive, told Baile an earlier war story from Upper Marlboro, which "the British occupied in the War of 1812 on their way to occupying our nation's capital."
He told how a drunken British soldier was jailed and retained a local attorney -- "and that's how Francis Scott Key, an American patriot, ended up on a British warship" during the attack on Fort McHenry.
Baile, 75, also had more immediate concerns than the long-ago occupation of the house that's been in her family for three generations: the cobbles on the sidewalk.
"We're going to fix the sidewalks, aren't we, governor? See that lopsided one over there?" she said. "That sidewalk will trip a mouse. I've got to get out and pull those weeds again."
Stopping by a wooden porch on Main Street, Glendening held a cloth doll -- then returned it to its not-quite 2-year-old owner, Labella Keiner, who wouldn't look at him. Her great-grandmother, Mary Catherine Myers, 69, apologized lightly for the girl's shyness and made up for it with her own warm greeting.
Councilwoman Rebecca Harman said she hoped Glendening would have a better appreciation that New Windsor's Main Street is a state road, complete with tractor-trailers that occasionally drowned out their pleasantries.
Someone even said the "B" word-- bypass to the Smart Growth governor, who has killed several such projects in Carroll as part of his anti-sprawl campaign.
Gullo is a supporter of Smart Growth, both men said. After the walk, Glendening met privately with the mayor for about 15 minutes.
"It's my first visit to New Windsor," said Glendening afterward, praising the town, incorporated in 1844, and saying he'd like to return to enjoy a more touristy stroll. "My friend the mayor has asked me a couple of times."
Although the governor didn't come bearing gifts, the beaming Gullo said later that he has high hopes for sidewalks and other street improvements. The town expects about $87,000 in state money for its street and sidewalks.
Glendening said there will be $50 million to $150 million in transportation trust funds to help revitalize Maryland towns during the next six-year construction cycle.
Gullo said he hopes New Windsor will see some of that money.
"The typical Carroll County response to the governor is, 'Oh we don't want him; he doesn't like us,' but in New Windsor, we are going to move forward and we are going to cooperate with him," Gullo said.
The Smart Growth policy may not be popular in the county, he said, "but being in municipal government, you can see the advantages of such programs. You cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created those problems."
Earlier yesterday in Detour, Glendening and state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon announced a $75,000 award toward the purchase a junkyard off Route 77, where debris has created a floating clog when Double Pipe Creek floods its banks.
Carroll's three commissioners and county employees joined numerous state staff members who gathered at the 3-acre site on the creek bank, surrounded by rusting buses.
"We need to have you come out again and bring more money," Dixon joked. The governor also approved Tuesday night a $750,000 grant to preserve Little Pipe Creek through the Rural Legacy program. Big and Little Pipe Creeks join to form Double Pipe Creek.