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Fond memories of Schaefer's City Hall

Working for Don Schaefer for 15 years represented the best years of my professional life … and for many of my colleagues he GAVE us a professional life. If he trusted you, you had complete freedom to be as creative as you could be. That was his secret and the reason so many of us worked like dogs to deserve that freedom.

•When city councilmen reported complaints from their constituents about unusually high water bills, the mayor looked around at the cabinet and pointed to me and said, "Marion, check that out." When I protested that I had no idea when I turned on the tap where the water came from, he responded "that's why you will be perfect for this project!!"

•In the late 70s, when the city received a lot of federal money to create public service jobs (hard to believe these days), many cities got into serious trouble by giving those jobs to political cronies. Mayor Schaefer warned every city councilman to keep their distance and permit me to fill those jobs — some 3,000 — in a professional and unbiased way, threatening them with the loss of federal money. He was probably the only mayor in America to resist the temptation to give those jobs to pals.

•When Fraser Smith approached him about authoring a biography, he got a very cold shoulder from the mayor and so appealed to me for help. Schaefer was adamant — he just did not trust the press. I assured him that Fraser thought very highly of him and considered him the last of a special breed of successful big-city mayors. He finally agreed to a lunch meeting with Fraser at which I tried to play the role of mediator, and the rest is history.

•When he won the governor's race, we were determined to give him a proper send off, so we organized a trolley tour around the city at pre arranged "historic" stops so that community members, City College alums, etc. could all say "good bye." It was a teary journey for all of us on that trolley that ended at the harbor and the now famous crane lift onto the yacht (while he changed into a naval uniform while airborne and we all held our breath).

Marion Pines

The writer served as commissioner of the Baltimore City Neighborhood Progress Administration and as executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City under Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

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