City police lieutenant runs for county sheriff

Fisher, a Democrat, says department morale is low

May 22, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A veteran Baltimore City police lieutenant will challenge Baltimore County Sheriff Ann K. Strasdauskas in the September primary, basing part of his platform on what he contends is poor morale in the sheriff's department.

Lt. R. Jay Fisher, operations commander of the Police Department's Warrant Apprehension Task Force, has filed for the sheriff's job with some impressive credentials and a couple of heavyweight supporters.

Fisher and Strasdauskas are Democrats and the only declared candidates. The filing deadline is July 1.

Fisher, 54, says low morale is hurting the department, which provides security for the county courthouse, transports prisoners and serves legal papers.

"I had a booth during the Towsontown Festival, and a number of county deputy sheriffs approached me and said they hoped that I'd get elected because morale is so bad in their department," said Fisher, who has served 32 years on the city force.

"There is so much I could do without spending a lot of money because I have done it before successfully," Fisher said.

Strasdauskas dismissed the charge of poor morale among the 62 sworn officers and 40 civilian personnel. "Morale could not be better," she said.

The sheriff said that since she took over the office in 1998, she has upgraded weapons, computers, training and communications. Strasdauskas added that she carefully administers the agency's $3.5 million annual budget and works hard for her $70,000 annual salary.

"Things are unbelievably excellent. ... but you will always find a couple of people who will never be happy," she said.

Fisher has patrolled some of Baltimore's toughest streets and has been in command positions in which he was responsible for budgets and training.

He also has the backing of two prominent Marylanders -- state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., chairman of Crown Central Petroleum Corp.

A native of the Hampden section of Baltimore, Fisher served six years for then-Mayor Schaefer as a member of the department's Executive Protection Unit. He earned a degree in social science at the University of Baltimore and has accumulated 12 letters of commendation and other police decorations.

Strasdauskas, 48, was elected in November 1998, a year after being fired from her deputy sheriff's job by then-Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. for turning in her radio late. The firing, later reversed in court, appeared heavy-handed to some, and the Baltimore native beat Pepersack by 4,000 votes.

She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

Strasdauskas is a high-profile official, appearing frequently at community and official functions. She's appeared in uniform on the Rosie O'Donnell Show and last month raised eyebrows with what some viewed as special treatment for a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

When linebacker Ray Lewis appeared in Circuit Court during a civil trial, Strasdauskas gave Lewis her private parking space and allowed him and his entourage to wait in a jury room normally off-limits to the public.

The sheriff said she took those steps for security reasons.

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