Delegate has his first day on the tail end of session

Howard Republican gets Flanagan's seat in House

March 12, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

For someone starting a political career by plunging headlong into the climactic final weeks of the most tumultuous General Assembly session in years, Warren E. Miller's calm, good-natured aplomb made him seem like a pro.

From schmoozing through a round of lobbyists' receptions Monday night to a House Economic Matters Committee meeting yesterday, Miller's first 24 hours as an elected official were a merry-go-round of new faces, give-away trinkets and housekeeping details.

"That sounds weird, `Delegate Warren Miller,'" he said, repeating his name and title out loud. He was learning fast, though. "I'm starting to meet some people the second or third time" -- and remembering them, he said late in the day.

Miller, a 38-year-old conservative Republican management consultant whose family has deep roots in Howard County's farming past, was sworn in by Speaker Michael E. Busch on the floor of the House at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

He replaced Howard Del. Robert L. Flanagan, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s new transportation secretary.

His wife, Jane, children Laura, 4, and Clay, 2, his parents Clayton and Evaline, his in-laws Robert and Patricia Steinkraus and their son Karl, plus a few GOP officials watched. Immediately after the oath, lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano offered Miller the first of many trinkets -- an official-looking plastic name tag and a congratulatory letter.

During Monday night's House of Delegates session, Busch's announcement of Miller's arrival prompted a standing ovation from the other members.

He arrived exactly one week before the deadline for House action on next year's unresolved budget. Slot-machine gambling, billion-dollar deficits and potentially painful cuts or tax increases are floating proposals, with each passing day increasing the pressure for action.

On his first day, Miller formally hired Rose LaVerghetta, a retired federal employee and former Republican Central Committee member, as his aide, received his legislative I.D. card, and an all-important parking pass for a spot under the House office building.

If the initial flurry of activity was light on legislative action, politics were clearly on the new delegate's mind.

Ehrlich is the name on his appointment certificate, Miller noted, and he intends to help the state's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew be successful.

In the midst of the chaos, Miller calmly handled everything from ushering his extended family around Annapolis, to avoiding questions from a group of African-American sorority women eager to hear a Republican's views on boosting education.

"It's my first day, and the governor advised me to take it all in and keep quiet," he told the women, smiling as he left a crowded delegation room in the House office building.

Fellow Howard Republican Del. Gail H. Bates, Miller's office mate and first-day guide, spoke for both by saying how important she, a former teacher, feels education is, and how proud she is that Maryland's first African-American lieutenant governor, Michael S. Steele, "is of my party."

But Bates diverged from Miller on slots. A Southern Baptist, she told Alpha Kappa Alpha members that she cannot support gambling, while Miller supports Ehrlich's plans.

A former appointments office employee in the Ronald Reagan and George Bush administrations and a 1994 campaign manager for Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Miller won his new job by winning the votes of his fellow Howard County Central Committee members -- though nearly all elected Howard Republican officials backed pollster Carol Arscott instead.

An information technology consultant to federal agencies for Booz Allen and Hamilton in McLean, Va., he is a resident of Woodbine in western Howard. An experienced GOP operative, he is used to being in the background as a source of reliable support -- not the man in the spotlight.

Perhaps his least stressful task was an hour of quiet one-on-one guidance from Ralph Matos, a state computer instructor, who issued Miller a laptop and a printer and showed him how the legislative software works.

"It's very different," he said about his new political role compared with his professional one.

Which is why Bates had to nudge Miller into standing during the Monday night session to publicly introduce his in-laws, who were in the House chamber. Miller voted "yea" on two bills and "present" for two quorum calls -- despite his jokes to vote "no" on everything before the Democrat-dominated legislature.

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