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New to Annapolis, not power

Staff: The governor's top three aides are old hands at Washington politics, but Maryland's may pose a different sort of challenge.

February 11, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

As chief of staff to first Congressman Ehrlich, and now Governor Ehrlich, Kreseski calls himself "the constant who was always there."

Although he concedes he would like to return to Washington as a lobbyist eventually, he said he is thrilled with his assignment. "I'm the humble bill drafter who spent his whole life for this moment," he said.

`Warrior Princess'

Carozza hesitated a bit before joining the Ehrlich administration. She had a job she loved, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, based at the Pentagon. But working in her home state was an opportunity too good to pass up.

The eldest of four children, Carozza, 41, was born in Baltimore and attended St. Mary's School in Govans until the fourth grade. That's when her father sold his three Tony's Snack Shack sandwich shops and plowed the proceeds into an Ocean City fast-food restaurant.

The family lived two blocks away from the business, Beefy's on 17th Street, and everyone was expected to pitch in. "All four kids were working in my dad and mom's business," she says. "That's where we learned our work ethic. I was the one who tended to stay on the cash register. Dad probably liked having a family member on the cash register."

She recently bought a house in Ocean City near her family and intends to return regularly.

A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, Carozza earned a partial tennis scholarship to Catholic University in Washington, where she played singles.

From school, she went straight to Capitol Hill, first as an assistant press secretary to former Sen. William S. Cohen, a Maine Republican, then as press secretary to then-Rep. Mike DeWine of Ohio, also a Republican.

She became chief of staff to DeWine's successor, Rep. Dave L. Hobson, and stayed 10 years before leaving for a Pentagon position. That background has earned her the nickname "Warrior Princess," which seems to be sticking inside the State House.

"Our job after 9/11 was to build and sustain support for the war against terrorism," Carozza says, adding that her high point was rounding up votes for the October resolution giving President Bush authority to use force in Iraq.

Carozza says she always considered Ehrlich an "up-and-comer." While reluctant to tell her boss that she was leaving, Carozza says she had a feeling Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld would understand. After all, both he and Ehrlich are Princeton University graduates.

After she submitted her resignation, Rumsfeld pounced on her the next time he saw her. "He grabbed me by the lapels," Carozza says, and told her: "`This is your chance. Don't blow it.'"

`Chance to come home'

McDonald says he was drawn to politics and civics at an early age, and picked a career path that didn't quite work out.

"All I ever wanted to be was a reporter," says McDonald, 47. "I wanted to be the true journalist, ferreting out good and evil. I was the geek who was reading the newspaper every day."

But getting there was tougher than he thought.

Born in Edmondson Village, McDonald was the third of six children of an A&P grocery chain baker. When he was in the fourth grade, his family moved from Baltimore to Reisterstown. Racial block-busting had swept the neighborhood; his was the last white family to leave Colborne Road.

The family didn't have enough money to send him to college after graduation from Franklin High School, so he worked his way though then-Towson State University as a cashier at a succession of supermarkets. "I think I closed every A&P in the Baltimore area," he says.

At Towson, McDonald enlisted at the radio station and was hooked. "My big memory from Towson was I announced on the air that Gary Gilmore had been executed," he recalls. But he couldn't land a perma- nent job in Baltimore after graduation.

He headed to a small station in Oneonta, N.Y., to fatten his resume but still couldn't find anything in Baltimore. A "position wanted" ad he placed in a trade publication led to a radio job in Greensboro, N.C.

After three years, McDonald wanted a change and decided to head to California for a beach-bum lifestyle. But before he left, without much thought, he signed on as press secretary for a North Carolina state legislator by the name of Howard Coble who was running for Congress.

Unexpectedly, Coble won. "He really screwed up my life," McDonald quips. "I was planning to surf for two years."

McDonald spent 18 years with Coble, first as press secretary, then adding the duties of chief of staff.

"Here's a guy who wants to do two jobs and not get paid for two jobs," the congressman says of McDonald. "That shows me a lot of style."

On Capitol Hill, McDonald always kept a foot in Maryland, attending several dozen Orioles games a year and packing his office with baseball memorabilia. "I said he was the No. 1 Baltimore Orioles fan on Capitol Hill," Coble says.

Coble and Ehrlich frequently played tennis together, and their chiefs of staff became friends.

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