Paying off sports bet with smile, service

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. was the epitome of good sportsmanship in his crisp gray pin-striped suit, delivering coffee and doughnuts to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman's office at 9:17 a.m. Monday, and later donning a River Hill High school sweat shirt to serve pizza to the school's undefeated football team.

Smith was fulfilling his bet to be Ulman's assistant for a day because River Hill defeated Baltimore County's Eastern Tech, 14-7, for the state Class 2A title last month.

"It was the most exciting sporting event I've ever attended," he told the River Hill players.

At Ulman's office, Smith played his predetermined role.

"I know my place," he said, joining an Ulman staff meeting already in progress. Chief of Staff Aaron Greenfield joked that the staff had been discussing "taking over Catonsville," to which Smith shot back that at east Howard officials "know a good community."

Later, the two executives went to River Hill.

"It's good to be here, no matter what you otherwise think," Smith said, smiling as he entered the school.

The two executives toured River Hill's building and answered questions from students in a government class before moving to the cafeteria, where they served pizza and cake to the players. Ulman's office paid for the $225 feast.

Principal William Ryan told the executives that five River Hill teams - two cross country, two soccer and the football team - won fall state championships and noted that the school's band earned a national title at the U.S. Scholastic Band Association National Championships in November.

"This is an incredible school [building], and it also has great academics" Smith told the students after his tour. He was particularly impressed with the building's design, he said, which groups classrooms by subject area in the two-story structure. Smith also was impressed with a high-tech music room equipped with more than $100,000 worth of large-screen computers and instruments students were using to compose music.

Most of the students seemed too shy to ask a question, though 15-year old Kaylee Dugan, a 10th-grader, asked one about how to control global warming that gave Ulman an opportunity to talk about one of his favorite topics. Smith said Baltimore County is working regionally with Harford County on plans for an incinerator that converts trash to energy.

At lunch, seniors Zack Martin and John Hill, both 17, who are two of the football team's four co-captains, said they enjoyed the Ulman-Smith visit.

"It's great to be here. This is the first time something like this has happened to us and our school," Martin said.

"It's pretty cool," he added.

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