Bachman's spirits high despite woes Panel's call for firing comes at difficult time for councilman's wife

'It's overwhelming'

Anna Bachman plans to continue her efforts in unofficial capacity

March 22, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Anna Bachman has always tried to be there for everyone.

Calls from mothers desperate to obtain food stamps and complaints from residents tired of illegal dumping in their neighborhoods haven't stopped just because she's got a problem.

So, while friends and family are upset that she's being removed from her county position as aide to her husband, County Councilman George Bachman, Anna Bachman refuses to let the pressure show.

"I'm fine," Bachman, 75, has told friends who have called to check on her from county offices and from around the corner.

The county ethics commission ruled last month that Bachman's position on her husband's staff creates a conflict of interest for the councilman and recommended that the councilman take away her $50,589 annual salary.

After 34 years of working closely with his wife to build his public service record, George Bachman must fire her.

She worries that she has caused her husband political embarrassment at a time when she should be helping him through a health crisis: He underwent surgery last week for an enlarged prostate.

"It's overwhelming," is the most Anna Bachman will acknowledge.

That's more than she'll say to her children, who call their parents' Linthicum Heights home from out of state.

"Why should I let them know how I feel? I'm there for them," she said.

That's always been her mantra.

History of helping

She was there for Diana Webster when Webster approached her at a Brooklyn Heights Community Association meeting in November.

For two years, Webster had been trying to get the county to stop charging her for trash pickup for an upstairs apartment she hadn't rented since 1991.

"They just kept giving me people to call," Webster said of the county offices. "They told me that it couldn't be done."

But with a few calls to what Bachman calls her "special sources" in county government and to Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. public affairs, Bachman obtained a letter documenting that the gas had been turned off in the unit in 1991, the proof the county needed to stop the charges.

Two weeks ago, Webster, a retired office worker, received a county check for nearly $1,200, refunding her payments for trash pickup back to 1991.

"She really did do a wonderful job, and I don't even know the lady," said Webster.

"I prayed for her that she was such a kind person and thanked God for her help," Webster said.

Anna Bachman was probably praying for her.

A Roman Catholic, she said she often spends several hours a night in the front room of the Cleveland Road rambler she shares with her husband going through a stack of printed prayers.

"At the end of the day, I just go in there and sit and think about all the people that need help," she said last week from her husband's room at North Arundel Hospital Center.

She was there Wednesday morning when he awakened after surgery, and she stayed with him until shortly after noon. Then it was time for him to sleep and for her to check in at her office on the fifth floor of Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie.

Organization, determination

She keeps meticulous case files there, years of handwritten notes on pads and hundreds of small slips of paper with phone numbers of people who have called her for help and people she calls for answers.

"I just don't take 'no' for an answer," she said during an interview in her office. "I worked hard to just get names of people where I can dial into and say, 'OK. I've got another problem for you.' I'm never demanding, but I do want service."

The grandmother of seven won't use a computer, but her mind is an invaluable database.

"When someone brings up a problem, she'll raise her hand, close her eyes for a second and then say, 'I know who you need to talk to,' " said Joseph Collini, president of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association, who has seen her in action at monthly meetings.

On campaign trail

Mrs. Bachman began building her encyclopedic knowledge of county and state bureaucracy after her husband chose her to serve as his assistant in 1990, when he was elected to the council after a 10-year absence.

He was elected to the county's first council in 1964 after joining in the campaign for charter government in Anne Arundel. Anna Bachman worked on the campaign, going door-to-door to push residents to vote for a change in government.

"She just sparkled when she was with people," said Joseph W. Alton, the county's first executive. "He was great one-on-one, but she was more extroverted than he was."

But Alton, needing a "blue-collar" representative on his ticket, tapped George Bachman, a machinist for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, to run for the council in the first election.

Mrs. Bachman went to work, too. A homemaker since they married in 1950, she took calls from constituents between driving her husband to work and her four children to school, volunteering in schools and the community, and cooking dinner before seeing Bachman off to night meetings.

After two consecutive terms on the council, Bachman is ineligible to run for re-election this year.

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