Maryland's Overseas Ambassador

July 16, 1993

Gov. William Donald Schaefer may be on to something. At a recent meeting with local business leaders to discuss results of his latest foray abroad, the governor suggested it would make sense for Maryland to have its own designated overseas ambassador. And since Maryland's secretary of state doesn't have much to do anyway, why not name him to that job?

We like that suggestion. At the moment, the secretary of state does little to justify his $80,000 a year paycheck. It is essentially a record-keeping task handled for him by longtime, seasoned bureaucrats and clerks. The title and the compensation far outweigh the work required.

But our state constitution requires that there be a secretary of state. It is a relic of our past. Once upon a time, it was imperative that the state have an official record-keeper. No longer. The job has lost its significance.

So why not pursue Mr. Schaefer's creative idea? Not every governor can be expected to be as active in promoting the state abroad as Mr. Schaefer, who just returned from a 12-day whirlwind of stops in Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, Britain and lTC the Netherlands and this morning flies off to Mexico to help boost Maryland business products during a five-day visit that includes a meeting with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Let the secretary of state -- it's a grand-sounding name -- take up the cause of overseas boosterism. The ideal candidate for the job would be a retired business executive, someone with know-how on tapping into foreign markets. Give this individual a decent travel budget and let him or her operate under the auspices of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

That would solve a number of problems. The secretary of state would have real duties. The governor would be relieved of his heavy burden to promote Maryland around the world. The state could gain the sales and marketing expertise of a senior retired executive. And taxpayers would see at least a small savings.

We urge the governor to pursue his suggestion. Let's make the secretary of state Maryland's overseas ambassador.

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