City Council without Landers Bell's loss: Departure of top aide for private-sector job could have profound impact.

October 16, 1997

IT MAY BE that Jody Landers' departure from the offices of the Baltimore City Council for a private-industry job won't mean a thing. But don't bet on it. As the top aide to Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, Mr. Landers has greatly influenced that legislative body's actions. As director of fiscal affairs, he has been Mr. Bell's strong right arm and at times the left one, too.

This is not a slap at Mr. Bell. It is recognition that in Mr. Landers he had a capable assistant who, after serving two terms as a councilman himself, had considerable insight into what Baltimore needs and how to get things done at City Hall. Mr. Bell's chief of staff, Bill Henry, may be as politically savvy as Mr. Landers but he hasn't been the same wellspring of ideas.

Mr. Landers, who sold real estate part-time from 1983 to 1993, recently was named executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors. The private-industry job gives Mr. Landers an opportunity to put behind him for good a political career that never really recovered from his 1991 loss to Jacqueline F. McLean in the election for city comptroller.

Any observer of the preparatory meetings that precede formal sessions of the city Board of Estimates could see how much Mr. Bell relied on Mr. Landers to know what dollars and cents questions to ask of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's staff. During the budget process it was Mr. Landers who could provide detailed explanations of early retirement plans or devise tax alternatives for Mr. Bell.

The council president clearly will miss Mr. Landers. But he's not the only one. Since this is a City Council that seems bereft of plausible ideas other than those that occasionally come out of Mr. Bell's office, members may long for Mr. Landers, too. His replacement will have a big assignment. If he or she performs it as well as Mr. Landers, all Baltimore will benefit.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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