Johnson for mayor of Annapolis Endorsement: His temperament, training in economics and transportation suit city's needs.

October 28, 1997

ANNAPOLIS' next mayor must be a consensus builder. Because a majority of the City Council decided not to seek re-election or to run for other office, at least five of the eight aldermen elected a week from today will be new to the job. The mayor, who heads the council and has a vote on it, must lead out of necessity.

There are important differences between the two nominees for mayor, Democrat Dennis M. Callahan and Republican Dean L. Johnson, not least of which is their contrasting styles of governance. The Sun believes Mr. Johnson is the candidate who can best identify the city's problems, develop a set of solutions and mobilize a majority on the council to take action.

The 56-year-old Mr. Callahan, a successful businessman, was an effective mayor from 1985 to 1989. He adeptly managed the city's finances, battled drug trafficking and helped to clean up the agency that manages public housing in Maryland's capital. That last item was especially significant. Although the world may view Annapolis as a historic town of quaint shops and luxury boats, one of every six units of housing is subsidized for poor residents.

Mr. Callahan lost his bid for re-election in 1989, as well as two later runs for city and county office. As a candidate this time around, he has offered some original ideas, such as converting a water and sewer escrow account into an endowment to provde extra support for Annapolis public schools. However, despite his assurances otherwise, Mr. Callahan remains a feisty politician who relishes a good donnybrook, even if counterproductive.

Although he worked cooperatively with Anne Arundel County officials as mayor, he seems to feel his ticket back to City Hall lies with exacerbating the fears city residents harbor toward its relationship with the county.

Mr. Johnson, by contrast, earned a reputation as the city's most reasonable alderman during his two terms. His colleagues respect him for voting on the merits of an issue, not on which colleague was sponsoring the bill.

The city faces critical issues, from developing a comprehensive plan to attract business to rethinking its transportation. As a retired economist for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the 55-year-old Mr. Johnson is well suited to address both areas. He believes the city, with its coveted quality of life, should be a natural to lure high-technology companies and wants to fix the misconception that Annapolis is "anti-business."

Although Mr. Johnson did not hold a leadership post on the council, he has helped run various local organizations, ranging from the Annapolis Opera to neighborhood groups. The breadth of his community work, even beyond his political service, is most impressive.

The Sun endorses Dean L. Johnson for mayor of Annapolis in the Nov. 4 election.

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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