Although Dennis F. Rasmussen tried his best to win re-election as Baltimore County executive, the relief of life outside politics does have its benefits. "I feel like I weigh about 2,000 pounds less," the former county executive says.
Despite the disappointment of losing, life out of the public eye is "not all that bad-a big stress reliever," he says.
The former state legislator, named by a magazine as the best county government administrator in the country a year before his defeat last November, says he's doing general consulting for five private clients. He declines to identify them. He also visits the state capital maybe once a week to stay in touch and visit friends, such as Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, with whom he served in the Baltimore County delegation.
Rasmussen was soundly defeated by political novice Roger B. Hayden despite having a campaign war chest that topped $1 million and was 10 times the size of Hayden's resources.
But with three months of perspective on that loss, Rasmussen still describes his administration as a bold one that charted a course others will eventually follow.
As debate currently swirls around the Linowes Commission tax reapportionment plan, Rasmussen's visits to Annapolis have convinced him that state legislators have no more interest in finding new revenues for local governments than they did a year ago, when his was the lone voice calling for greater local tax authority.
"No one was willing to accept the fact that the counties were going to have a revenue problem," he says. Although Baltimore County is expecting lean revenue years ahead, the county appears to remain on more sound financial ground than some other richer counties such as Montgomery and Howard.
Rasmussen feels he paid a price for not treading the politically safe path.
"Sure, I could have done nothing," he says, referring to his controversial request last year to win General Assembly approval to raise the county's share of state income taxes in return for a seven-year plan to gradually drop the county property tax rate by 55 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
"I could have given county employees a 4 percent raise starting July 1, and then laid people off this year" after the election, he says, revealing a trace of bitterness.
Last year, Rasmussen gave all employees a 4 percent raise, but for budget savings, refused to start the raises until midway through the fiscal year. That cost him support among the county's employees, especially among teachers.
They had negotiated a 6 percent increase, only to see it chopped down to an effective 2 percent raise, while teachers in neighboring Howard and Anne Arundel counties received raises of 8 and 9 percent respectively. The Teachers Association of Baltimore County refused to endorse any executive candidate last fall.
Given their history of complaints about pay, Rasmussen says, he's amazed that the county teachers haven't railed against a 3 percent pay raise to which their union has tentatively agreed.
"In years past, they negotiated 6 to 8 percent increases," he recalls, and they complained then that that wasn't enough. Hayden, meanwhile, has not said whether he intends to raise the pay of county workers next year or not.
Rasmussen, who is working from his former campaign treasurer's law office in Towson, says he's still exploring permanent options, including starting his own business consulting firm, working for other private companies or perhaps the state Chamber of Commerce.
"My interest is not working with state government," he says in response to rumors that he might want to follow several other former county executives into Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration. He wouldn't, however, rule out doing a little lobbying in Annapolis.