Candidates seek their own images

February 21, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Cynics might call it the battle of the wives.

Louise Hammond, the wife of former Annapolis Alderman John Hammond, is vying for his Ward One seat against Sharyn Steffey, the wife of former State Sen. John Steffey.

But between now and the March 8 special election, each woman is setting out to prove that she is credible in her own right.

Both women have been community volunteers, but Mrs. Hammond claims that she is most suited for the ward seat because she has learned the workings of the council through her husband, an alderman for 16 years.

Mrs. Steffey contends that she is the most qualified because of the experience she has gained as an Annapolis real estate agent. Mrs. Steffey promises to bring change.

Mrs. Hammond promises continuity. And given her husband's lopsided re-election victory last fall, when he captured 888 of the 1,299 votes cast, she might have the advantage.

Mr. Hammond had to give up his seat when he accepted a position as chief financial adviser for Anne Arundel County.

Leaders of the Ward One Residents Association say the race could be close. At a recent meeting of the association, "both made good presentations," association Treasurer Elaine Reed said.

Dick Jedlicka, a member of the association's board, said whoever is elected will have to address the proposed convention center, work to implement the recommendations of the Ward One sector study and find ways of smoothing over the differences between residents and downtown businesses.

"If Louise is elected, the people will get four more years of John Hammond, and if that's what they want, fine," Mrs. Steffey said. "I'm going to bring a new face to the City Council, new thoughts to the City Council and a new attitude."

Mrs. Hammond bristles at the notion that she will somehow be a puppet of her husband. "It's demeaning," she said. "I'm my own person. I can think and act for myself."

Mrs. Hammond said her husband had urged her to run for council 17 years ago. "He always thought I should run, but I thought he was the better candidate."

So he took the seat and Mrs. Hammond watched from the sidelines. Although he is a Republican and she a Democrat, she said they agreed about most issues. Both are strong supporters of Annapolis' Historic District Commission and efforts to preserve the downtown.

Both are interested in the city's finances. Mr. Hammond served as chairman of the council's finance committee.

Even her campaign signs were his, except she has taped "Louise" above "Hammond."

But Mrs. Hammond said she has had disagreements with her husband. She believed he was wrong when he voted to privatize the city's garbage collection, for instance.

A native of Anne Arundel County, Mrs. Hammond said most of her adult career has been as a community volunteer. She has been active in her children's schools, including St. Anne's Kindergarten and Annapolis Elementary, and the American Heart Association. She may be best known for her work to beautify the downtown by planting flowers and shrubs.

The Hammonds have two children, Hunter, 15, and Kemp, 12.

Mrs. Hammond said she would like to increase the number of police officers patrolling downtown and continue to back the Historic District Commission in its efforts to maintain Annapolis' Colonial character.

She also would implement sections of the Ward One sector study, a blueprint of managing the downtown area. In particular, she said, she wants to see a more efficient transportation system and a satellite parking lot.

She has received endorsements from former aldermen Gill Cochran and Ed Finnegan.

Mrs. Steffey, a Republican, grew up in Scranton, Pa., and moved to Annapolis with her first husband 27 years ago. When her children went to school, she started her career, first as a broadcast journalist.

Among her first reporting assignments was covering City Council, she recalled.

When her first marriage ended, she looked around for a career that would give her flexible hours and a decent salary, and turned to real estate. Some years later, she married

John Steffey, a former state senator and the owner of an agency where she was working.

The Steffeys each have three children from previous marriages.

Today, Mrs. Steffey is a real estate agent with Champion Realty and active in industry organizations. She said she hesitated to run at first and didn't file until the last day possible. But she said she ultimately decided she could do a better job than Mrs. Hammond.

"I'm trained to communicate, and communication is going to be important in the next four years," she said.

Mrs. Steffey said she wants to be a liaison between the residents and the city as they confront such controversial issues as the proposed convention center and the rebricking of Main Street.

Although critics claim that she has never been active in any community associations, Mrs. Steffey said her lack of involvement in those groups gives her added credibility in dealing with all sectors of the ward.

Mrs. Steffey lives in a historic house and said she appreciates the Historic District Commission's aim of preserving downtown.

"Maybe I'm the quiet voice for change," Mrs. Steffey said.

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