Rehrmann gets back to business Job: A day after leaving the governor's race, the Harford County executive returns to her local duties.

Campaign 1998

August 12, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann jumped from her dark green Dodge Intrepid shortly after 8 a.m. yesterday, smoothed the skirt of her impeccable gray suit and headed into the county office building.

After quickly grabbing a cup of coffee, she strode past a cuddly replica of a wolf in sheep's clothing, a table filled with pictures and a sign declaring "No Whining."

"Are you all right?" asked Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows before a meeting with Rehrmann and other county officials. "Did you get any sleep at least? You look good."

A day after she abruptly ended her bid to capture the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and unseat incumbent Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the two-term county executive got back to the business of local government.

As she returned to work, Rehrmann displayed the same tenacity that prompted her to enter a race in which polls showed her a long shot despite high-profile support from Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

"Did you see the editorial cartoon this morning?" Rehrmann asked Robert M. Infussi Sr., her director of government and community relations. "My mom and dad came down to be with me and she saw that first thing this morning."

The cartoon depicted Schmoke as a jockey sitting astride the dried bones of a horse labeled "Rehrmann."

Nearly out of money and trailing significantly in the polls, Rehrmann withdrew from the race Monday, five weeks before the Sept. 15 primary. In a political career that began on the Board of Town Commissioners, she has never lost an election.

Rehrmann will end her final term this fall when a new county executive is sworn in to lead a county with booming development. Some have complained she opened the door to too much development and has left the county deeply debt. They are not unhappy to see her statewide aspirations dashed.

"I think it's great that she got out," said Lori Wedra, a 27-year resident of Bel Air, as she dined at Red Fox Restaurant, a long-time popular restaurant and gathering spot for local politicians.

"I don't like what she did in Harford County and personally I wish that we would have had more of our founding fathers' history maintained here and less growth. I wasn't even considering her for governor."

Rehrmann's supporters, however, maintain she is a fiscally sound manager who guided the county through tough economic times. But in the end, money matters ended her State House dreams.

"Her message was one that people believed in and to have to pull out because there was not enough money, that was a difficult decision," Infussi said.

For most of the day, residents showed their support of Rehrmann. Motorists honked and waved as she walked Main Street on her way to lunch. One woman leaned out of her car window and yelled, "Sorry."

People offered plenty of hugs to the 53-year-old Rehrmann.

"I'm going to vote for you anyway," said Becky Joesting-Hahn, the county's assistant recycling coordinator, as she embraced Rehrmann.

The news of Rehrmann's departure from the race shocked many in her home county.

"I was very surprised," said Dave Wolff, owner of Fine Grind, an espresso bar on Main Street. "It seemed like she had a lot of local support and I was hoping that would carry over to state support, but I guess that didn't happen."

Angelo Monico, owner of Towne Barbers, expressed his dismay yesterday when Rehrmann stopped in to thank him for his support and for prominently displaying her campaign sign in his store front window.

"I was batting for you," Monico told Rehrmann. "Now who am I going to bat for?"

It was that kind of support that kept her energized throughout a year of campaigning, Rehrmann said yesterday as she tried to adjust to slowing down. After Monday's announcement, she relaxed that evening with friends, enjoying a pizza, much needed rest, and calls of support.

"That's probably the best part about the day after," Rehrmann said. "The telephone calls from people saying, 'We are here for you in whatever you decide to do.' "

With so many people depending on her, Rehrmann said withdrawing was "one of the most difficult decisions" she ever had to make.

"There were so many people involved in the campaign," she said. "I really wanted to get the issue of education on the table because that is something I believe strongly in.

"No, I didn't get the opportunity to put everything out on the table that I wanted to," she added wistfully.

Rehrmann has made no decisions about her next career move.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

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