Jeepers! Schmoke trades in his Lincoln Town Car

September 16, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Have the streets of Baltimore gotten so bad that the mayor needs a four-wheel drive? Or is Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke just trying to get in touch with his flannel shirt and Timberland side?

The city's button-down, bespectacled leader, he of the Ivy League resume and conservative suits, has swapped one of his official Lincoln Town Cars for a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.

That's right, the mayor is pulling up at black-tie dinners, a luncheon with Vice President Al Gore and even a gala at the Meyerhoff in his Jeep these days. And he loves it.

"You thought I was a Gucci mayor, but I really am not," he Mr. Schmoke quipped. But he was quick to add, "I'm still the same button-down guy on the issues."

His new look comes after he took up regular bowling outings with his staff this year. But Mr. Schmoke says he was more preoccupied with practical concerns than style when he picked the Jeep.

During the heavy snow and ice storms last winter, Mr. Schmoke managed to maneuver around the city in an all-terrain vehicle from the Department of Public Works. He "noticed it was a nice, comfortable ride" and figured a Jeep would be more useful than a luxury car.

The city bought the two Lincolns for Mr. Schmoke's official travel at a cost of a little under $50,000 a year ago. In February, the mayor decided to trade one in for a Jeep, and a few months later, he had the other Lincoln modified to run on compressed natural gas.

The city's mayors traditionally have two cars assigned to them for security reasons, Mr. Schmoke said yesterday. His new Jeep, adorned with a "Mayor 1" license plate, is the same midnight blue as his Lincoln.

Mr. Schmoke bought the Jeep for $21,477, only $100 over the list price. The Lincoln was sold at an auction for $20,000, said Budget Director Edward J. Gallagher.

Several council members appeared downright astonished by the mayor's new wheels.

"It doesn't fit with the cardboard image of him. It's refreshing," said District 1 Councilman John Cain.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who plans to challenge the mayor's bid for a third term next year, said, "I'll be happy to have a Jeep."

The mayor said, "People don't see me as a bowler, either." But this side of him, he added, "was always there. People just don't always realize it."

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