'Not some transient character,' Don Mohler honored with speeches, portrait as he departs Baltimore County government

Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler, whose brief tenure ends Monday, was honored Wednesday as a dedicated leader who packed all he could into his seven months in office.

The occasion was the unveiling of Mohler’s portrait, the 13th county executive portrait to line a hallway at the Historic Courthouse in Towson. Photographed by county photographer and designer Lauren Watley, it shows a grinning Mohler in front of the county seal.

Kevin Loeb, who worked by Mohler’s side as chief of staff, said Mohler provided a steady hand as county officials reeled from the unexpected death of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in May.

“In true Mohler fashion, he knew he was the boss and he had to keep it together. … As time passed, he knew he had to move forward and everyone wouldn’t move forward if he didn’t. So he got down to business,” Loeb said.

Once Mohler was appointed county executive two weeks after Kamenetz’s death, he began rattling off what became a 77-item to-do list for Loeb: setting up meetings with department heads, finding stalled projects that needed to move forward, sending out emails and the like. As the audience laughed, Loeb deadpanned: “This isn’t funny, this happened.”

And while Mohler’s name might have been new to some county residents when he was appointed to the top job, Loeb noted that Mohler has been working to improve the county for his entire career.

“He is not some transient character in this county’s history,” Loeb said. “But instead, has been a constant in the shaping of this county … from a social studies teacher to a principal to an area superintendent to the communications director over multiple county executives to the chief of staff to the late county executive to the county executive himself.”

County Council Chairman Julian Jones said he assumed Mohler would “take it easy” and be a “caretaker” as county executive. Jones quickly found he had assumed incorrectly.

“That’s not Don Mohler,” Jones said. “Don did not sit down. He stood up.”

Jones listed Mohler’s accomplishments: more money for pedestrian and bike safety, speaking out against gun violence, supporting public transit, negotiating a financial assistance deal for the Tradepoint Atlantic project in Sparrows Point. “He packed probably at least a year and a half in these six months,” Jones said.

Mohler also was praised by interim schools Superintendent Verletta White, incoming County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and his brother, Mike Mohler, who is the chief administrator of the county’s liquor board.

“This is insane,” Mohler said as he stepped to the podium in the crowded hallway, following nearly 40 minutes of glowing speeches.

He offered a long list of thanks, starting with his wife, Linda. Mohler joked that he can “get a little worked up” about new ideas, but said his staff hasn’t heard nearly all the things he’s cooked up. “You have no idea how many of them never got past the kitchen table because Linda would say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ ” Mohler said.

Mohler also thanked his large and supportive family, former county executives, his mentors from his years in the school system, the police officers on his protective detail and even the local media.

He’ll pass the torch at 10 a.m. Monday, when Olszewski is sworn in as the 14th Baltimore County executive.

“The next few day are going to be hard. I can’t make light of that. … You work some place for 15 years, you become a family. These are my extended family,” he said.

Mohler added: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything over 15 years, over the past seven months.”

Then Mohler, surrounded by his family and holding a granddaughter in his arms, stepped through the crowded hallway over to the framed portrait. Mohler and Loeb together removed a black cloth, and the crowd cheered.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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