'Keeper of the checkbook' Campaign treasurer for governor 'definitely 'not a political junkie'

September 30, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Robin O. Oegerle is the woman behind the smoking calculator of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's furious fund-raising efforts.

But despite the full-court press to move tickets for the governor's dual-scale fund-raiser tonight at the B&O Museum in Baltimore -- a $125 affair with an optional $1,000 VIP cocktail reception -- Oegerle won't step fully into the fray until the morning after.

"I do the grunt work," she said.

As the Glendening campaign treasurer, hers is the job of dotting the i's and crossing the t's on the governor's campaign finance reports.

In that role, she is less visible and less active than her predecessor, but recently has found herself the spokeswoman for the campaign, as more and more questions -- and eyebrows -- have been raised about Glendening's fund-raising activities.

But Oegerle, a 44-year-old financial analyst from Bowie, is not your run-of-the-mill campaign bean counter. (A Prince George's County accounting firm actually handles the contributions.)

By her figuring, only about 5 percent of her time is spent on the Glendening campaign, except, of course, in an election year.

"It's a very small part of my life, really," she said.

The other 95 percent of her time is spent as wife, mother, volunteer, track coach -- and senior vice president for marketing and public relations at Ferris Baker Watts, the Baltimore-based brokerage firm.

"What I do for the governor is fun, and what I do for Ferris Baker Watts is fun," she said. "I just do as much as I can, because you never know when it's going to be taken away from you. Life is an adventure."

While not involved directly in the adventure of Glendening's prodigious fund-raising efforts, which are seen generally as unprecedented in frequency and scope, Oegerle defends them.

"We're not the only people fund raising," she said, alluding to the feeding frenzy of candidates raising money from a somewhat limited pool.

"Why do you raise money? Because it costs money to get elected," she said. "The cost of [television advertising] time is extremely expensive, especially in the Washington market."

The job she does for Glendening is more of an accounting function -- ensuring that money sent to the campaign is properly logged on the state election board's finance statements, that the bills are paid and that contributions that exceed the state's legal limits are refunded.

As Glendening's 1998 re-election bid begins to take shape -- no official campaign apparatus is in place now -- Oegerle will "analyze the cash flow" and prepare a spending plan for the campaign.

Until then, the campaign will continue to have "a few small events" -- some of which have carried a $1,000-a-ticket price tag -- in addition to a once-a-year gala, such as tonight's bash, she said.

Contrary to published reports, she said, no dollar-amount goal for the 1998 governor's race has been set.

"How much we raise depends on what the race looks like," Oegerle said. "We will raise what we need to get him re-elected -- and the main driving force will be how much television time we have to buy -- but until you know who you're running against, it's really premature to set a goal."

In fact, she said, "The fund raising at this point is in low gear, very low-key."

"It is not the primary focus," she said. "Wait till you see where we are a year from now -- and a year from then."

John P. Davey, a close Glendening adviser and the former chairman of the campaign's finance committee, refers to Oegerle as "the keeper of the checkbook" -- a description he readily acknowledges is simplistic.

"You'd be selling her short, if you painted her as someone with a green eyeshade and a pencil in her hand," Davey said.

"She's the person the governor has trusted for almost 10 years now to watch over the checkbook and to approach the campaign from a business perspective," he said. "She's definitely not a political junkie."

Oegerle is a registered Democrat, a party affiliation she changed from Independent after moving to Prince George's County from Arizona in 1978.

"She doesn't really get involved in the politics, and she's not a fund-raiser," Glendening said. "She's been our treasurer for a while and does a great job in an almost nonpolitical sense."

A Miami native and the daughter of an accountant, she graduated from the University of Florida -- the bitter rival of Glendening's alma mater, Florida State University -- and went on to get her master's degree in fine arts at the University of Massachusetts.

By then, she had married an astronomer, William R. Oegerle -- he's the guy wearing the "Yes, I'm a real rocket scientist" T-shirt -- whose career took her to Arizona. (He now works at the Johns Hopkins University department of physics and astronomy.)

When William Oegerle took a position at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, the couple moved to Berwyn Heights, where she launched a career in investment research -- first with Cambridge Associates and then founding Financial Strategies Inc.

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