The man named yesterday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to be interim superintendent of the Maryland State Police is a politically connected veteran who has served as a loyal bodyguard and political lightning rod for two governors.
But Capt. Larry W. Tolliver has little command experience outside of guarding the state's chief executives. He replaces Col. Elmer H. Tippett, who announced his resignation several months ago and officially departs tomorrow.
While Bishop L. Robinson, public safety secretary, promised a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent, Governor Schaefer said the only way Captain Tolliver could lose the new job "is not to play ball."
That's a highly unlikely scenario, as State House veterans say Captain Tolliver has made his career, and leapfrogged over other troopers with higher places on promotional lists, by being loyal to the governors he served.
The 46-year-old head of Governor Schaefer's Executive Protection Division said he considers his interim position "the ultimate challenge" and intends to actively work toward rebuilding an agency whose morale has been hurt by years of disputes over promotions and budget woes.
"The way to keep this job is to prove I can do it," Captain Tolliver said.
He will be the sixth state police superintendent in the last 10 years.
Some people who have followed Mr. Schaefer's political career said yesterday that the appointment was predictable.
Mr. Schaefer, who highly values loyalty, has repeatedly rewarded longtime assistants or advisers by tapping them to assume new roles rather than bring in new blood.
In fact, state police sources said, the governor fired former state police Superintendent George Brosan in 1987 after he refused to promote then-Sergeant Tolliver from the bottom of a promotional list for lieutenant. Mr. Robinson acknowledged yesterday that he later promoted Mr. Tolliver to captain when he was also at the bottom of the list because he was considered "best-suited and qualified" to fill the position.
Captain Tolliver is seen as a good soldier who has done whatever Mr. Schaefer asked, personally serving as head of his security detail, personal bodyguard, door-opener, coat-holder and unofficial greeter upon the governor's return from public events.
He has even been seen occasionally taking the gubernatorial dog, Willie, for early morning constitutionals.
It was Captain Tolliver who took the heat for calling Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins to request use of a city ambulance to take Hilda Mae Snoops, the governor's longtime friend and companion, from the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis to a Baltimore hospital in July.
Use of the ambulance was initially denied by a battalion fire chief because the trip was classified as a non-emergency run. A 71-year-old Annapolis man died of a heart attack while the ambulance was returning from Baltimore.
Captain Tolliver also took responsibility a year ago when the Schaefer administration was criticized for photographing demonstrators at the State House who were protesting the governor's proposed ban on military-style assault weapons.
Police said they decided to photograph the demonstrators because the crowd had become "boisterous," but demonstrators complained the police were attempting to intimidate the protesters and to dissuade them from exercising their right to assemble.
But Captain Tolliver's associations with those in the State House in Annapolis date back to the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel.
His first tour of duty at the State House began under Mr. Mandel in 1972.
In Bradford Jacobs' book, "Thimbleriggers," about Governor Mandel's legal problems, there is a picture of Mr. Tolliver holding the door as Mr. Mandel and his wife, Jeanne, left a federal courthouse in 1977.
He and other veterans of the State House security detail were sent to other assignments when Gov. Harry R. Hughes took office in 1979, although ironically, Mr. Hughes named Captain Tolliver's wife, Sheila, as his education aide.
Governor Schaefer, acting partly on a recommendation from Governor Mandel, brought Captain Tolliver back.
"He is a very competent individual," Mr. Mandel said yesterday.
Mr. Robinson said the state police will continue a nationwide search for a permanent successor.
Hubert Williams, of the Washington-based Police Foundation, will lead the screening process, expected to take four or five months.
Rank and file troopers contacted yesterday were generally unhappy with the appointment, arguing that Captain Tolliver had spent very little time outside Annapolis. There is also resentment over his promotions.
"What's the use of having a promotional list if you aren't going to select from the top?" one angry trooper asked.
Mr. Robinson defended Captain Tolliver's lack of "broad brush" experience by stating that there are few in the agency with that type of background.
Captain Tolliver was selected from a list of 10 potential candidates.