Charles I. Ecker is a very nice man. When he ascended to the Howard County executive's seat -- and he would not like the analogy to a throne -- Mr. Ecker pledged that he would maintain an open-door policy, unlike his predecessor, Elizabeth Bobo. No aide or public relations specialist would act as an intermediary between him and his constituency, he said.
Many observers, particularly those of us in the press, winked knowingly at one another, convinced that the realities of holding office would put a quick end to any promise about openness. More than two years into his administration, however, we concede that Mr. Ecker has lived up to his word.
The latest evidence of this -- although it seems a somewhat bizarre example -- was Mr. Ecker's recent decision to host a visiting religious leader from India.
His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II just happened to be in town, and an appointee of Mr. Ecker's, also from India, asked that the two of them get together.
Apparently nothing was discussed that could be remotely considered county business. The county's residents who happen to be Indian were not on the agenda. His Holiness simply shared his views on the meaning of Lent and the conversation turned to such matters as living in harmony.
His Holiness left with no promises of trans-Atlantic cooperation or any future and mutually beneficial dealings.
It was simply a courtesy visit. No strings attached.
During the meeting, Mr. Ecker did make this telling statement. "I believe in harmony," he said. "I believe you should treat other people as you would like to be treated."
From all indications, Mr. Ecker believes every word of what he said. Time and again, he has proven he is a man of his word.
Whether it be calming an angry group of residents with his candor or returning a phone call promptly or cajoling an opponent with his homespun wisdom, Mr. Ecker has consistently shown that to him an open door means an open door. Even members of the opposing party grudgingly have to acknowledge his uncommon civility.
No one can say he is the stereotypical politician -- aloof, sly, calculating. We might not always agree with the substance of his positions, but Chuck Ecker's open-door style is certainly refreshing.