One of the things friends find attractive about former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo is that she has never quite grown up. She is the perpetual high school sophomore -- very much the center of the clique.
Shortly after the unveiling of her portrait in the county office building last week, Bobo was given a bouquet of roses.
Cradling them in her arms like a baby, she turned to a guest and said, "Have you seen my roses? Did you notice they're color coordinated? Did you see how they match my sweater?"
And then she laughed. Not a demure "tee-hee," but a booming "HAR, HAR, HAR!" It has become her trademark. She loves a joke on herself, but if she can catch you in one, it's doubly funny.
More than 130 friends, supporters and former county employees showed up for the unveiling of her portrait. She was typically late. It was to have begun at 6:30 p.m. It started at 6:48.
Edward Cochran, saying he was "the senior member of the former county executive's club," welcomed Bobo into the fraternity. She, like Cochran, "was excused by the voters" after one term.
Notingthe presence of current Executive Charles I. Ecker, Cochran called him "a man who doesn't mind confronting his own mortality," and told him, "I look forward to welcoming you into the club -- but there's no hurry."
After giving a brief history of Bobo's political career from his having invited her to become the local Democrats' campaign manager in 1974 to her appointment to the County Council in 1976 and herelection as executive in 1986, Cochran called for the unveiling of Bobo's portrait.
As if by design, the satin covering failed to comeoff.
With the assistance of Bobo's daughter and Public Works Director Jim Irvin, the satin fell to the floor, revealing a portrait of a smiling Liz Bobo. She was standing behind a leather chair, dressed in a suit. The portrait is the kind of modern painting that looks like a photograph.
"It's the first time I've seen that," Bobo said. "I think it looks pretty good, to tell you the truth."
After a couple of quick jokes -- "Ed, you're getting to be the senior member of just about everything," and "Chuck, thanks for making the building available, but I really miss my parking space," Bobo turned serious.
"I'm not sure I wanted a ceremony," she said, "but I have a lot of good memories and a tremendous amount of satisfaction and pride about the things we did and the manner in which the staff conducted themselves. . . . Nothing in my working life has given me as much satisfaction as the four years I served as county executive."
She gave special thanks to her 87-year-old mother, whom she said made her and her sisters feel "we could do what we wanted and always produce."
Then came the roses -- and refreshments: chocolate chip cookies and pina colada punch. Fitting, perhaps, not only for a high school sophomore, but for a former executive as well.
ILLUSTRATION: PHOTOTHE HOWARD COUNTY SUN -- EILEEN RYAN
CAPTION: Portraits of Howard County executives include William E. Eakle in 1986 and the most recent entrant to the gallery, Elizabeth M. Bobo.
SOCIAL SERVICES' SERVICE
It's no secret that the county Department of Social Services' income maintenance division has an image problem, with clients reporting long waits and rude treatment from the workers who process their applications for public assistance, food stamps or Medicaid.
Part of the reason for the problem may be the way the staff is using "Schaefer time."
"Schaefer time" is the tag unhappy state employeespinned on the extra 4.5 hours Gov. William Donald Schaefer tacked onto their 35.5-hour workweeks in July.
When the time came, department directors had the option to extend office hours beyond 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by opening a half-hour earlier or closing a half-hour later. County DSS Director Samuel W. Marshall says he went one better, staggering employees' hours to openthe office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Nobody will ever mistake this reporter for a mathematician, but when one of the caseworkers told The Howard County Sun last monththat her working hours were 8:30 to 4:30, with a half-hour for lunch, we calculated her workweek at 37.5 hours.
Marshall says that cannot be, because all local employees have been working 40-hour weeks since July.
So we tried our own small test.
We called at 8:10 one morning last week and asked to speak to any of the four intake workers who accept initial applications from clients for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, general public assistance, food stamps or medical assistance. The phone rang 10 times, but no one answered.
Wetried again at 8:15 and this time were told that we couldn't talk toany of the four intake workers because, "They're all interviewing this morning."
Are they interviewing clients right now? we asked. Well, no, the operator replied. "They're all getting started to interview."