'I don't see the job as being a glorified bookkeeper'

December 04, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez and Ginger Thompson

Jacqueline F. McLean was sworn in yesterday as Baltimore's first female and first African-American comptroller at the front of a stage filled with loved ones and powerful politicians from around the state.

Later that night, she celebrated her new job with some 400 politicians and business and community leaders at an elaborate black-tie dinner, billed as the First Comptroller Inaugural Ball, at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. The $85-per-plate affair featured a "five-star" gourmet dinner and a 19-piece orchestra. Even Santa Claus made a special appearance.

"This is a great day," said James Lee of the Korean Society of Maryland. "This is the first time a lady has gotten this job and I want to encourage her. That's why I'm here."

But the former City Councilwoman said her achievement as a black woman -- "a double first," she called it -- was not the main point of her inauguration, a ceremony at the War Memorial downtown dignified with poinsettias, the Douglass High School band and a drill team from Northwestern High School.

"That is secondary to the responsibilities of my office. . . . I do not intend to become a passive monitor with no voice," said Mrs. McLean, declaring that she would not be a low-profile comptroller relegated to counting beans. "I don't see the job as being a glorified bookkeeper. . . . I see the office as a key partner and player."

Mrs. McLean, a 2nd District Democrat whose family operates a Baltimore travel agency, said she intends to establish "performance audits" for all municipal agency heads to force accountability.

"I want agency heads to think about their units in terms of mission, goals, efficiency and quality of service," she said.

And, she said, "if that shows too many people for jobs then we must develop humane ways of downsizing [government] but we must know where we stand first. . . . Don't be alarmed if you see private contractors doing more of the jobs formerly done by city agencies."

On the inaugural stage with her were both of Maryland's U.S. senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski; state comptroller Louis L. Goldstein; Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who swore her in; and, at the far end of the stage, outgoing comptroller Hyman A. Pressman.

As Mr. Pressman departed his job silently, Mrs. McLean entered it with glitz and glamour. Dressed in a black taffeta gown, she roamed through the inaugural party kissing her guests as if all were longtime friends. "This is Jackie," she said. "Jackie is part of the community. Jackie is going to be out there. This is not going to be an invisible office any longer."

Mrs. McLean said she made no money from the ball and most of those who attended thought it was an appropriate celebration.

"It's her time to brag," said City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd.

"Yes," added his wife, Susan. "As long as she does not start reciting poetry."

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