Annapolis politics won't be the same A city votes: Days of weak mayor in state capital will end after fall campaign.

September 05, 1997

REGARDLESS OF the outcome of Annapolis' primary election on Sept. 16 or the general election on Nov. 4, more than half of the City Council seats will be held by first-termers. This influx of newcomers will profoundly change the city's political dynamics. nTC And regardless of who wins the position, the office of mayor will be much more powerful, too.

By virtue of running for mayor or retiring from elected office, five incumbents -- M. Theresa DeGraff, Ward 7; Dean Johnson, Ward 2; Carl Snowden, Ward 5; J. Shepard Tullier, Ward 4; and Wayne C. Turner, Ward 6 -- won't be returning after the election.

Assuming that the remaining aldermen -- Louise Hammond, Ward 1; Samuel Gilmer, Ward 3, and Ellen Moyer, Ward 8 -- regain their seats, the council will contain more newcomers than incumbents. If any of the veterans loses, a solid majority of the council will lack legislative experience.

Annapolis supposedly has a "weak mayor" municipal structure. The mayor chairs the council, but his or her vote is equal to the other members of the council. On paper, as well as in practice, Alfred A. Hopkins has been a passive mayor these past eight years. He was not comfortable initiating policy. Mr. Hopkins preferred to be a figurehead. Annapolis' next chief executive will not likely follow his example.

Of the six mayoral candidates, four are veterans of city government. Chances are that the next mayor will be one of the three aldermen -- Ms. DeGraff, Mr. Johnson or Mr. Snowden -- or a former mayor, Dennis Callahan.

While the inexperienced council takes several months to sort out business next year, the mayor will fill the power vacuum and be in a position to control city government. Moreover, several charter amendments passed earlier this year curbed the council's ability to interfere in day-to-day administrative matters. Those amendments strengthen the mayor's hand.

If the next mayor enters office with a clear agenda, his or her major challenge will be rounding up the four other votes on the council to enact it. Under this style of governance, decisions are likely to be made more quickly than in the past. For Annapolis residents accustomed to excruciating debate on even minute matters, this would be a welcome change.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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