'Stagnation' is Fox's biggest foe Mayoral candidate banks on business

August 30, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

Michael W. Fox, Republican candidate for mayor of Annapolis, can see it all: A convention center drawing in people from Washington and Baltimore; trolleys to relieve congestion by diverting traffic to outlying corridors; a business community that welcomes economic growth while maintaining the historic integrity of the state's capital.

Mr. Fox, a businessman all of his life, calls Annapolis beautiful but stagnant. And the 42-year-old late-comer to the mayoral race, described by a neighbor as "the most un-politician I've ever met," says he thinks citizens are ready to hear his ideas.

"Nothing is happening. It's the same candidates making the same arguments. The mayoral race sounds like a bunch of rhetoric and finger-pointing, with no progress. When a city stagnates, it can really hurt," says Mr. Fox, who has lived in Annapolis for five years.

Mr. Fox wants to break this stagnation. "I'm an outsider, relatively, but I think we offer the best alternative. I'm the most experienced from a business standpoint, in terms of working with people to meet budgets and payrolls and make things happen."

Annapolis Alderwoman Terry DeGraff, a Republican who lives across the street from Mr. Fox in the Georgetown Grove area, says his political newness could work to his advantage.

"He's a smart, regular common-sense kind of guy," she says. "He has nice children. He's funny; the kind of guy you like sitting on the porch and having a beer with."

Ms. DeGraff said she thinks Mr. Fox has good general ideas, though he hasn't formulated enough specifics to know whether they would work.

"He hasn't been involved long enough to [have detailed plans]," she said. "But he has no enemies . . . He's not naive, but he hasn't been involved in politics in the past, which is somewhat refreshing and could help him."

Looking in at the political process, Mr. Fox expresses impatience with barriers to economic growth.

"In Annapolis, I've seen an area with hassles and difficulties for businesses to expand and grow. People are always arguing over little details. I think there needs to be a close look at planning and zoning, to figure out where we are getting bogged down in bringing business into the city. You can't hold businesses up forever and expect them to stay around," he says.

Annapolis needs a plan of exactly what a developer must do to start a business in the city, "so he knows what it will cost him to go through the system before he starts. The whole process is muddled."

Also high on Mr. Fox's agenda is the idea of a convention center. "We need to offer a convention/conference center in the city that NTC will allow small trade shows and small groups to come in. A lot of dollars can be generated, along with increased employment in the city," he says.

If such a center were tied into expanded corridors leaving the city, such as West Street and Eastport, the project wouldn't spoil the historic downtown, Mr. Fox says.

"This is one of the most beautiful cities in America, with some of the best assets," he adds. "We need to maintain the heritage and historic value, but it also needs to be livable."

To those who oppose growth, Mr. Fox has one response: "If this city goes down, the problems will hit everyone. No one is immune to the woes of the economy. [Opponents] have got to not be so narrow-minded."

Mr. Fox, who with his wife Lisa has a 3-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, said he's also interested in education reform, such as promoting the year-round school system and ways to reduce the amount of administrative work teachers must cope with. Mr. Fox's daughter attends West Annapolis Elementary School.

"The mayor doesn't control the schools, of course, but if Annapolis could come up with a community proposal for the superintendent, we might make some inroads," he says.

The candidate says he also would work for improved morale and training within the police department.

But his recurring theme is economic development.

A Minnesota native, Mr. Fox holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Ohio University. He has 20 years ,, experience in real estate, restaurant management, marketing, sales and service, business administration, budgeting and land development and securing financing for affordable housing.

He has worked for companies such as U.S. Steel and Case

Edwards and now runs Fox Marketing Sales and Services. The company represents manufacturers by selling and displaying merchandise for retail stores like Home Depot.

A lifelong Republican, Mr. Fox says his candidacy is a "long shot."

"I'm late in the race; I'm a new person to Annapolis. But I will say people in both parties seem to be listening," he says. "I decided If I was going to run, now's the time to do it. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

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