Mr. Annapolis Al Hopkins: State capital's outgoing mayor led with optimism, love for his city.

November 25, 1997

WHEN ALFRED A. HOPKINS steps down as mayor of Annapolis next week, Maryland's capital city will lose one of its most beloved mayors. Mr. Hopkins did not carve out a reputation as a steely administrator or as a visionary, but he was unsurpassed in his passionate devotion to the town, its institutions and history.

Some observers dismiss Mr. Hopkins as bumbling, corny and sentimental. He is famous for his waffling and occasional verbal gaffes. One of the more memorable was his flip-flop on supporting across-the-board 2 a.m. liquor licenses: After witnessing a couple in passion on the hood of a car, and assuming they had been loosened by drink, he became a convert to the wisdom of earlier bar closings.

But seat-of-the-pants reasoning was secondary to his decency, unpretentiousness and eternal optimism. Those qualities defined him in the eyes of Annapolitans, who likely would have been willing to elect him a third time if allowed by City Charter. Al Hopkins was to Annapolis what President Reagan was to the country: a leader who was often likable, whether or not you believed in his view of the world.

For all the broad acclaim that tourism and boating have brought it, Annapolis clings to a self-image as an idyllic small town. Mr. Hopkins' mayorality reinforced that. His interest was never the minutiae of assembling a budget or fashioning zoning, even though he had served as an alderman for decades before becoming mayor in 1989. His real joy was acting as a guide for tourists who happened by City Hall or parading with the brigade of midshipmen.

Mr. Hopkins was not all show. He hired competent department heads who saw that trash was picked up, potholes were repaired, finances were in order. Annapolis' problems did not rise to the level of citizens sounding the alarm.

A farewell party tonight honors Mr. Hopkins' dedicated service. The city is naming a plaza in his honor near Market House. Fittingly, tonight's celebration is at the U. S. Naval Academy -- an institution that Mr. Hopkins has always revered, but, as an enlisted man in the Navy, never attended.

For Mr. Annapolis, it's a natural forum to tell another story that will make his listeners appreciate -- as he so obviously does -- that they live in a beautiful, small city by the bay.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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