Plain Vanilla Governor

January 18, 1995

Any way you look at it, Parris N. Glendening will be quite a change from the man he replaces today as governor, William Donald Schaefer. It's the difference between plain vanilla and peppermint almond crunch ice cream. Or a ham on rye versus a chicken-and-salsa sandwich. Or a banker's business suit versus a Gay '90s swimsuit.

Mr. Glendening admits it: He's dull, he's fixated on arcane aspects of public administration, he's a step-by-logical-step problem-solver. He's the mirror image of Mr. Schaefer, the publicity-grabbing, unpredictable, demanding and results-driven governor who enlivened the state with his controversial outbursts and "do it now" philosophy.

What Marylanders get at noon today is a governor who in many respects breaks the mold. Mr. Glendening is still largely unknown outside his home county. He's a generation younger than Mr. Schaefer. He's the first governor in over a century from the Washington suburbs. He's an academic with a Ph.D. in political science. He's been an elected leader in Prince George's for over 20 years.

But he's not flashy. And he's not deeply wedded to a particular strain of political ideology. Mr. Glendening is the ultimate centrist, willing to heed the winds of public change and adjust course. More important, he is a believer in governing through inclusion. His initial cabinet appointments reflect this attitude. Two are longtime Republican officeholders. One is from the Eastern Shore. Minorities and women are well represented. A number are holdovers from the Schaefer administration. All of them have extensive experience in their fields.

Mr. Glendening won't pull a "Schaefer" in his first legislative session by inundating the General Assembly with sweeping proposals. Instead, his focus will be limited to a handful of objectives: getting control of the budget, beginning the downsizing of government and erasing the perception of Maryland as being hostile to business.

This last item is critical. Job-creation is the key. To attract new jobs, Maryland must become business-friendly. The new governor wants a big pot of money to lure new companies here. He wants grants for small businesses in designated revitalization areas. He wants to get rid of duplicative and time-consuming red tape. He wants to light a fire under a semi-privatized economic development agency by making it more a creation of Maryland's business leaders.

Don't look for Mr. Glendening to hog the spotlight. This will be a far more contemplative administration than we've seen the past eight years. And yet Mr. Glendening's track record shows he should not be underestimated. He likes to identify long-range goals and work steadily toward them. He also is a big believer in consensus politics.

It may not be as exciting, but the new governor brings to state government a zeal for incremental, ordered change that in its totality could prove startling. Marylanders may gain a new appreciation for the plain vanilla approach.

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