Love, llamas, Queen Anne's lace and Martin O'Malley's campaign

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May 24, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

There's a sweet tale about a political appointee at the State Department who loses interest in political life as she falls in love with a man and his 135-acre llama farm in Harford County. It appeared in Vegetarian Times, a likely venue since the magazine celebrates chucking it all for the simple life (provided your definition of the simple life includes a solar-paneled backpack that "converts the sun's rays into energy that can be used to charge cell phones, cameras, PDAs and iPods when you're on the go.") The author comes as more of a surprise: Lucie Snodgrass, one of Martin O'Malley's brand-new deputy campaign managers.

"With time, things that had mattered to me for years seemed suddenly inconsequential, like my apartment and my job," Snodgrass writes. "Though I was at the apex of my career, the allure of it vanished, like spent bluebells. I had never complained about working 70 hours a week before; I chafed at it now. I tired of the ceaseless political talk at work and with friends, daydreaming of farm chores that I'd rather be doing, like making scarecrows with the boys or helping Ed re-plank a footbridge or mow a pasture.

"I snatched every opportunity I had to get out of the city, passing up coveted theater tickets to shear llamas and turning down dinner invitations at foreign embassies for a Saturday night campfire in a clearing a half a mile from the house. ... By the time the Queen Anne's lace bloomed and Ed and I talked of marriage, I couldn't wait to leave Washington."

Snodgrass' essay ran in the September issue of the magazine. And yet here she is, just eight months later, giving up the gentle world of llama farming for what should be one of the fiercest political campaigns in recent Maryland history.

What gives? Did llama shearing finally wear thin? Not a chance, says Snodgrass.

"After I'm done with the campaign, I'll be glad to be back on the farm," she told me yesterday. "I'm always grateful to come back to that quiet place. I think we all need that balance."

In truth, the campaign isn't Snodgrass' first trip off the farm since she moved there a decade ago. She served as director of governmental and community relations for Harford County, and last summer sought unsuccessfully to become county executive.

Additionally, she and her husband, Ed Snodgrass, just wrote a book. Due out in October, Green Roof Plants is a resource guide for landscape architects, engineers and roofers interested in - you guessed it - green roof plants.

Along with llamas, the couple raise 150 types of plants that make for environmentally friendly roofing. Their plants - "really drought-tolerant, hardy succulents" like the sedums and one called hens and chicks - are growing on roofs at Harvard, Swarthmore and the new addition to the Library of Congress, she said.

If Snodgrass does her political job right, maybe the lid on Annapolis' Government House will be next to go green.

But enough about me

Doug Duncan's campaign makes some hay with a comment from the O'Malley camp about why it changed campaign managers, swapping a national political operative for a Maryland one. The quote (from O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese to The Washington Post): "The change in direction now is that this campaign will become more focused on Maryland and the people of Maryland."

The comeback: A Top 10 list titled "Things My Campaign Has Been Focused On." Here's the abbreviated version.

10. Me

9. Me being president

6. Me being a rock star

5. Me being a retired rock star (on a long farewell tour)

Says Abbruzzese: "I guess this is what we get from the mature candidate in the race, `mature' being in quotes."

City Council salvages its good name

There was a golden opportunity out there for somebody to legally hijack a valuable municipal commodity - baltimorecitycouncil.com, the council's Internet domain name, was up for grabs.

The office of Council President Sheila Dixon accidentally let the $19-a-year registration lapse, said spokesman Chris Williams. Payment was due May 17, but nobody realized it until yesterday, when a grace period apparently expired. Anyone looking for the latest council news found this message instead: "Make an offer on this domain."

(The page listed an administrative contact: Dale Clark, Dixon's former campaign chairman and no-bid computer guru.)

If you're thinking nobody would make a grab for the name, think again. A few years back, somebody bought the rights to baltimoremaryland.com, linked it to a porn site, and tried to shake the city down for $8,500.

The president's office staked its claim as soon as it was notified of the problem yesterday, Williams said.

"We cut a check to renew it for six years," he said. "We dodged a bullet there."

Baltimore - get on with it

Baltimore's new municipal slogan is officially under wraps until this afternoon, but somebody hired a bunch of pretty young women yesterday to hand out rubber balls that said: areyouinonit.com. There was a last-minute suggestion in District Court yesterday from Assistant State's Attorney Anna Mantegna: Baltimore, the City that Drives Suspended. The Sun's Julie Bykowicz reports that presiding Judge H. Gary Bass gave it the thumbs-up.

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