Quick, somebody send Crofton leaders a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." The way they tore into County Executive Robert R. Neall on one of his recent feel-good "County Comes to You" excursions shows that they need a lesson in diplomacy.
Croftonites have complained for years that their special taxing district hasn't been receiving its fair share of services. This year, they're calling on Mr. Neall to provide money for new baseball fields and a library. Last week, the town had a chance to show him why those facilities are necessary, to share its problems and send him away thinking nice thoughts about Crofton before he puts the final touches on next year's budget. So what happened? The town did its best to make him have a thoroughly rotten day.
First, the executive was greeted by angry volunteer firefighters who shadowed him in an engine adorned with a sign that proclaimed, "Going out of business sale, courtesy of Robert R. Neall." Residents of Reidel Road picketed him for closing their street. Then, Crofton Civic Association President Ed Dosek let Mr. Neall have it -- in front of reporters -- for not making Crofton his top priority.
By themselves, the picketers and firefighters weren't a big deal. Both had every right to protest -- though the firefighters had no business using an emergency engine for their stalking maneuver.
Mr. Dosek also was entitled to speak his mind. But the tongue-lashing he gave Mr. Neall was so harsh and so calculated to embarrass him in public that it could not possibly have helped Crofton. Mr. Dosek not only snapped at Mr. Neall, he was insensitive to the fact that other neighborhoods want things from him, too. His comment, "I don't care what other communities have to say!" hurt his town's cause.
County officials didn't come out smelling great, either. They couldn't resist tipping reporters that the driver of the fire truck had been arrested for drunken driving. Also, Fire Administrator Paul Haigley continued the pettiness that is par for the course between paid and volunteer forces. When told volunteers offered to pay for the gas in the truck, he sniffed, "Ask them for a receipt."
All in all, it was not a good day. The next time the county comes to Crofton, Crofton should remember: a little diplomacy goes a long way.