After 4 years, portrait of Gary going up in Annapolis

County Executive Owens says she intended no delay

Anne Arundel

January 19, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

A little more than four years ago, Democrat Janet S. Owens and Republican John G. Gary fought a bitter campaign for county executive; Owens won, and Gary was history.

Forgotten history, he says.

As you walk in the front doors of the Arundel Center in Annapolis, there are pictures of the first four county executives: Joseph W. Alton Jr., Robert A. Pascal, O. James Lighthizer and Robert R. Neall. But there is no picture of Gary, the fifth.

That will change Jan. 28 - four years, one month and 22 days after he left office. Owens has decided - finally, Gary said last week - to hang his portrait, which was taken while he was still in office.

"I guess somebody must have stumbled upon the damn photo in the closet somewhere and said, `Oh, I guess we better put the photograph up somewhere,'" Gary said. "Normally, you do it right after the person leaves office."

Gary said he hung the picture of Neall, a good friend of his, a month into his first term.

It sounds like shades of former Govs. William Donald Schaefer, Parris N. Glendening and their famous fountain dispute. As governor, Glendening in 2001 turned off the fountain that Schaefer had dedicated to his late friend, Hilda Mae Snoops. Schaefer berated him.

But Jody Hedeman Couser, a spokeswoman for Owens, said it is nothing like that.

Owens did not intend for there to be a delay, she said, and no one should read anything into it.

Owens and Gary have a unique relationship.

She is the only Anne Arundel County executive to have defeated an incumbent in an election.

He is the only incumbent to lose.

"What makes good political theater are two people with diametrically opposed views," said Andy Carpenter, a former Owens spokesman and campaign worker.

By that measure, the 1998 campaign was great theater. Gary never expected to face Owens, who pulled off an upset and won the Democratic primary. Their campaign was short and to the point.

Weeks before the election, Gary called Owens "that stupid woman" and "ignorant."

Owens frequently called Gary a "bully" and said he picked fights with county officials.

At 4 p.m. Jan. 28 in the lobby of the Arundel Center, they will meet again.

Owens had offered to hang the picture in September 2001, but Gary's mother had recently died and he asked that the event be postponed, he said.

The two recently bumped into each other, and Owens invited Gary again.

"I value it because I become part of the history of the county," said Gary, who works in joint venture business and real estate.

Owens' spokeswoman said she describes her relationship with Gary as "cordial."

Gary said he will never dismiss and forget Owens' comments about him in 1998, but he said he figures that she might not speak so critically of him anymore.

"I think," Gary said, "she realizes how tough the job is now."

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