Glendening attends governors' school, gets advice from Whitman

November 20, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Parris N. Glendening attended one of the nation's most exclusive institutions of higher learning this weekend -- governors' school.

With more than two-dozen governors as teachers and West Virginia's elegant Greenbrier resort providing classroom space, Mr. Glendening joined nine new chief executives looking for inside tips on how to run their states.

After lunch Friday, Massachusetts Gov. William Weld warned Mr. Glendening to beware of last-second questions at news conferences that often have landed him in trouble.

Over cups of coffee, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman shared her strategy not for cutting taxes -- a promise that Mr. Glendening's opponent used, too -- but for complying with the federal Clean Air Act.

And departing Maine Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. passed on the advice that then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton gave him in 1986: "Don't screw up on a slow news day."

Yesterday, participants spent classroom time dealing with subjects such as managing state finances, working with the legislature and maintaining relations with the federal government.

Sponsored by the National Governors' Association, the 2 1/2 -day seminar is designed to help incoming governors make the transition from successful candidate to effective state leader.

For Mr. Glendening, a student of policy and management, meeting with governors from across the nation at one of the country's great old resorts must have been a heady experience. Less than two weeks ago, he was standing at a Silver Spring Metro station on election eve greeting commuters, some of whom waved him off like a panhandler.

After declaring victory only last week, he arrived at the massive, Georgian-style hotel Friday from a nearby airport in a limousine with two police escorts. If Mr. Glendening was awed by the surroundings or star struck by the company, though, he never showed it.

"I'm enjoying it, yeah," said the low-key University of Maryland professor when asked how he liked meeting political figures he had known mostly through television and newspapers. But, he added, "It brings home more that this has actually occurred."

Although Maryland's election outcome is not official yet, Mr. Glendening appears to have won the hard way -- by a fraction of a percentage point.

In Maryland's closest gubernatorial race in 60 years, he nudged Republican candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey by about 5,400 votes. Mrs. Sauerbrey has alleged vote fraud and may contest the election in court.

With one of the slimmest winning margins this year, Mr. Glendening seemed a little concerned that fellow governors such as Mr. Weld -- who won with 71 percent of the vote -- might not view him as an equal.

But other governors who had won similarly tight races in the past assured him that once he started putting his administration together the numbers would be forgotten.

"I know that intellectually," Mr. Glendening said, "but it's somewhat reassuring" to hear.

One of the governors he met Friday afternoon was Mrs. Whitman, a Republican who came to Maryland last month to campaign for his opponent. Governor Whitman has made a name for herself nationally by cutting personal taxes in New Jersey. She also served as something of a political role model for Mrs. Sauerbrey, whose promise to do the same in Maryland nearly won her the race.

All that, though, seemed long ago as Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Whitman chatted over cups of coffee outside one of the meeting rooms.

"I knew he was [as] concerned about containing costs as I have been," said Mrs. Whitman, who offered to have her treasurer provide advice to his staff as they move to Annapolis.

Mrs. Whitman said it was not awkward talking to Mr. Glendening after campaigning for his opponent.

"No matter who it is, one of the things I said to him is that politics kind of ends at the door when you come to governors' association meetings," she said.

While some governors came with an entourage of staff and bodyguards, Mr. Glendening arrived with only his wife, Frances Hughes Glendening. One of his chief advisers, John T. Willis, had flown in earlier.

Mrs. Glendening attended several seminars for governors and their staffs to help her as she co-chairs her husband's transition to the Governor's Mansion.

Although Greenbrier has three golf courses, mineral baths and bowling lanes, the Glendenings seemed to spend most of their time at work. After Friday's cocktail party, they retired to their room at 9:30 p.m., still tired from a governor's race that ran a week longer than scheduled. The governors' seminar concluded last night, but Mr. and Mrs. Glendening stayed on at the hotel to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. They plan to return to Maryland tomorrow.

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