Schaefer gushes over his restored fountain

Turned off by Glendening, ornate capital waterworks restarted during ceremony

April 30, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

William Donald Schaefer achieved a long-sought vindication yesterday as his beloved fountain - turned off by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening - gushed again.

In an emotional celebration at Government House, the comptroller watched as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s 3-year-old son, Drew, worked the pump that restored the water to the ornate artwork that is the legacy of Schaefer's late companion, Hilda Mae Snoops.

Drew pumped and pumped until water began to drip from the fountain's lower basin and onto the sculpted symbols of Maryland's bounty.

In that moment, with old friends surrounding him and the water flowing again, another man might have basked in triumph and forgiven an old foe. Not Schaefer. Not where Glendening is concerned.

"I will not have any disparaging remarks about him except I hate him. That's putting it mildly," Schaefer told several hundred supporters who joined him for the ceremony.

The event was in part a Schaefer administration reunion and in part a political exorcism of Glendening.

"Justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream," said Luther W. Starnes, a Schaefer Cabinet secretary who is also a United Methodist minister, quoting the biblical prophet Amos.

The fountain at the governor's mansion was the pet project of Snoops, Schaefer's "first friend" during his two terms from 1987 to 1995.

Snoops, who died in 1999 at 74, overcame the snide remarks of critics and Annapolis insiders to see the fountain through to its unveiling in 1990.

The fountain flowed freely during warm weather through Schaefer's second term and Glendening's first. Some who initially disdained the fountain discovered it grew on them.

Then in 1998, when Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein died, Glendening appointed former congressman Michael Barnes to the job - bypassing Schaefer, even though he had recently endorsed Glendening for re-election.

Schaefer filed to run for comptroller, forced Barnes out of the Democratic primary, won the general election in a landslide and turned his seat on the Board of Public Works into a pulpit from which to preach an anti-Glendening gospel.

For 2 1/2 years, Glendening endured stoically. But then, with the state in the middle of a drought, he ordered the fountain turned off in what he characterized as a symbol of the need for water conservation.

"The only time he was able to get me in those eight years is when he turned off the fountain," Schaefer said yesterday.

Glendening did not return phone calls yesterday seeking his comment.

Glendening's decision to turn off the fountain became the subject of Schaefer's ire at memorable public works meetings. During one harangue about the fountain, Schaefer clucked at Glendening like a chicken. During another, he "outed" Glendening's relationship with his girlfriend by calling deputy chief of staff Jennifer Crawford, whom the governor later married, the "big boss" of the administration.

The fountain soap opera exasperated many high-ranking officials. "I wanted to sneak down here months ago at night and turn the damn thing on," said former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., who traveled from Cumberland for the ceremony.

During last year's campaign for governor, both Ehrlich and Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend promised to restart the fountain.

But after Ehrlich's victory and generous autumn rainfall, Glendening himself lifted drought restrictions and restarted the fountain in what was billed as a test.

Schaefer called the unceremonious restart a "dirty trick" by "Rabbit Brain."

Ehrlich made light of that incident yesterday, joking that "even my predecessor wanted to have the privilege" of turning the fountain back on.

After the ceremony, long after most of the guests had departed, Schaefer remained on the platform overlooking the fountain.

Asked what was on his mind as it was turned on, Schaefer said, "I thought about Hilda Mae." He said he could imagine her looking down and smiling as the water flowed.

Then his thoughts drifted back to his nemesis.

"The other governor was just a mean fellow," Schaefer said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.