Callahan announces bid to reclaim mayor's job He vows to fill leadership 'void'

January 24, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Dennis M. Callahan, the outspoken former Annapolis mayor, announced his bid to reclaim the city's top office yesterday, promising to fill a "void in leadership" in City Hall.

Speaking to reporters in his townhouse living room overlooking Spa Creek, Mr. Callahan acknowledged his personality may have cost him re-election in 1989, but he promised to change his style and focus on issues.

"Losing an election is a humbling experience," he said after the press conference. "I was politically naive. There was a brashness in my style."

The former Democrat, now running as an independent, said he personalized issues to the point where rhetoric replaced substance. "This time, I'm just going to listen more," he said.

Mr. Callahan, 51, who manages the Spa Creek Marina, is the first candidate to announce his candidacy for this year's election.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, who defeated Mr. Callahan in the 1989 Democratic primary, has said he will run again. Other possible candidates include County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb of Annapolis, and Annapolis Alderman Carl Snowden, D-5th Ward.

Mr. Callahan, who was mayor from 1985 to 1989, was known to have trouble tolerating dissent.

But he also was credited with many accomplishments. He focused on the needs of public housing projects, created jobs and departments, cut the property tax to its lowest in 10 years, left Mayor Hopkins with a $10 million surplus and spent two years cleaning up corruption at the Housing Authority.

Perhaps his most public effort was fighting drugs. He addressed a national drug conference in Atlanta, and was invited to a national town meeting on drugs anchored by Ted Koppel of ABC News, but never got a chance to speak.

In one of his most controversial moves, Mr. Callahan temporarily canceled games in the predominantly black Annapolis Summer Basketball League in 1988 after a coach was charged with selling cocaine.

Yesterday, Mr. Callahan said he saw many problems in the city, including filling vacant positions in the police department, restoring morale among firefighters and expanding the city landfill.

"This campaign is going to be a little different," he said. "We're going to be issue-specific. . . . We will not run a campaign on personalities."

In an interview with Annapolis radio station WYRE-AM, just after the press conference, he questioned who is running Annapolis -- Mayor Hopkins, Alderman John Hammond or Michael Mallinoff, the city administrator.

"There is a void at City Hall, and that void is leadership," Mr. Callahan said. "Mayor Hopkins is doing the best job he can do. The question the voters have to answer is: 'Can someone else to a better job?' "

Mr. Callahan also criticized raises given last year to top city officials, when "they couldn't even deliver" a 2 percent raise to other workers.

"That's an old-style management ploy," he said. "We need somebody with a vision to take us into the next century. We can't constantly be looking back to 1943."

He also said he will remain in the race even if his political ally, Mr. Snowden, runs. "I'm in the race to stay, regardless," Mr. Callahan said."This is not one of those items [that] we are going to rethink 30 days down the line."

Mr. Snowden said yesterday that he has not decided whether to pursue the mayor's job, a seat on the County Council or membership in the House of Delegates. He plans an announcement Feb. 12.

Mr. Callahan said he welcomed any opponents, and he reminded reporters about a 1988 National Geographic article on Annapolis titled, "Camelot on the Bay: About to Enter its Second Golden Age."

"I'm not sure we've stepped through the door and entered the second golden age," he said. "But we can. The ingredients are there. . . . I believe Annapolis can regain the respect and dignity that it deserves."

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