Ehrlich settles into Annapolis office

Cabinet could be filled by week's end, he says

January 17, 2003|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

Yesterday marked only the second time Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had ever been in the grand governor's office in the State House.

The first time was for five minutes in 1988, Ehrlich said yesterday, when he was a delegate serving on the Governor's Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer called him in to yell at him. "I can't even remember why," Ehrlich said yesterday as he entered the office for the first time as its principal occupant. "Probably something about money."

A more introspective, private person might have wanted to soak up the new office quietly, with perhaps only a close aide or a family member by his side.

Ehrlich entered his new digs yesterday trailed by a throng of reporters and cameras. He sat down at the big, empty desk and opened presents: personalized golf balls, a watch, a teddy bear. He also tore open a note from former Gov. Parris N. Glendening and read aloud the message telling him to enjoy the "most exciting and rewarding job you'll ever have."

The new governor - who partied with his Princeton pals until 3:30 a.m. yesterday at the Hyatt in Baltimore - spent his first full day in office returning phone calls, talking to the media and attending budget meetings with senior staff. There was talk of signing some "noncontroversial" executive orders, but they never materialized.

Sitting casually, one knee and shoe on top of a desk, he talked about his budget ("Some people are going to be happy, some people are going to be sad."); about combating drugs ("Will there be money for drug treatment slots? Yes."); and about how environmental groups and others who campaigned against him probably won't see their agendas met ("There's no grudge here, it's just political reality.").

He also said he might finish naming his Cabinet by week's end. Among a half-dozen people under consideration for secretary of the Department of the Environment is Lynn Buhl, a former environmental attorney for the Chrysler Corp. who spent the past three years as an undersecretary in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality under former Republican Gov. John Engler.

Meanwhile, some of Ehrlich's staff wandered around the second floor of the State House trying to figure out where their offices will be and when the new carpeting will be in.

Deputy chief of staff Ed McDonald is getting a small corner office with two windows. "I get a view of The Mall," said McDonald, who used to work on Capitol Hill. "That's what it's called, right - The Mall, Lawyers Mall?"

Ehrlich ended his day sitting in a chandeliered ballroom in which equal measures of testosterone and cold beer were the order of the evening.

Sitting in the third row of a room filled with 1,400 rowdy boxing fans, he and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele watched ballroom boxing at Michael's 8th Avenue in Glen Burnie as guests of former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner.

Ehrlich said he came to Michael's to show his support for the sport.

"Whether it's pro or amateur, this is where they start," Ehrlich said. "This is where these boys can shine."

Sun staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this article.

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