Secretary Bunk

May 20, 1993

In case you haven't noticed, the office of secretary of state i empty. It's been that way for some time. The last occupant, Winfield M. Kelly Jr., left to run a hospital enterprise.

But soon a new face will be occupying that office on the second floor of the State House: Tyras S. "Bunk" Athey, the affable and quiet state delegate and liquor store owner from the Jessup area. Mr. Athey is giving up his longtime seat in the House of Delegates for this $70,000 a year job. He's also giving up his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

For the 66-year-old Mr. Athey, this is clearly a short-term move. He certainly won't have any job security. When the next governor takes office in January of 1995, a new secretary of state almost surely will be selected. But it should be fun for the soon-to-be former delegate, who will get a chance to view government from the executive side of the fence for a change.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer can use Mr. Athey's expertise in the tax and budgeting matters. And Mr. Schaefer can surely use the Anne Arundel politico's knowledge and understanding of the legislature in devising strategy for the governor's final legislative session. Mr. Athey's 26 years in the House give him the kind of political experience and contacts sorely lacking among Mr. Schaefer's advisers.

Certainly Mr. Athey won't be overwhelmed by the official workload. He'll have little to do as secretary of state. It's a recordkeeping job. Office bureaucrats handle nearly all the paper shuffling and nitty-gritty. Mr. Athey will have plenty of time to give the governor a hand.

He might even consider talking the governor into sponsoring a bill to do away with this superfluous position. It's not needed. The lieutenant governor could easily handle the few chores required of the secretary of state. But since the position is a constitutional office, it will take approval of the legislature and the voters to abolish the job.

It would be a sensible move to streamline state government by eliminating this post. Mr. Athey has every right to enjoy the trappings of his sinecure during the next 18 months, but he could make a lasting contribution to the citizens of Maryland by leading the charge to abolish the office of secretary of state. It's one $70,000 expense taxpayers can easily do without.

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