No swan song from Schaefer

August 03, 1994

He may refer to himself as "an old man," but William Donald Schaefer isn't about to ride slowly into the sunset. He remains very much a driven governor, determined to keep his administration in overdrive as he navigates the final leg of his eight-year journey as Maryland's top elected official.

This past weekend, he delivered a long, rambling speech before his friends and former colleagues at the Maryland Association of Counties, a speech filled with Schaefer touches -- advice, criticism, a chronicle of past achievements, praise for staffers, potshots at politicians currently in disfavor. It was vintage William Donald Schaefer, and it was well received by a group that understands how hard it is to hold elective office and meet the growing expectations of citizens at a time when resources are limited.

While at least one Schaefer aide was overcome with emotion as the governor poured out his heart to MACO officials, the speaker himself was in full control. He crowed over the state's ability to exceed the General Assembly's goal for trash recycling. Then he gave local officials a pleasant surprise: He is appointing a 17-member panel to study a takeover of the costs of running Maryland's circuit courts.

This won't be a phantom panel, either. The governor picked a respected legislator who is retiring, Del. Timothy Maloney, to run the group and come back with recommendations before the November election. No matter how it is accomplished, a state assumption of court expenses is long overdue. It would amount to a $40 million burden lifted from the shoulders of local governments. When the next governor assumes office -- whether Republican or Democratic -- the Maloney report will be there, ready for action.

Similarly, the governor has his department secretaries running full-tilt as though they won't be leaving in January. Each agency is filing dozens of requests for needed legislation, just as has been done for the past seven years. Only this time, Mr. Schaefer won't be able to put these bills in the legislative hopper. It will be up to the next governor to decide whether they have merit.

When Mr. Schaefer concluded his speech to MACO officials, he sang, "So long, it's been good to know you." But don't be fooled. He's not going anywhere until January. This is one governor who is determined to govern right up till the last minute. It's another illustration of his splendid dedication to public service.

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