Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who has criticized Martin O'Malley's performance as Baltimore's mayor, said yesterday that O'Malley could be a good governor if he doesn't let his political ambitions get in the way.
"It all depends on what he does at the very beginning," Schaefer told reporters after a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis.
"If he tries this big-shot stuff, it won't be any good," Schaefer said. "If he comes in and says, `I am going to be governor, I am going to work with everybody, I'm going to work with the people,' he'll do fine, because he is smart, he's good-looking, and he's got a lot of things going for him."
To be successful, Schaefer said, O'Malley should focus on his responsibilities as governor, and not just view it as a launch pad for a possible presidential bid.
Questioned about his own plans for the future, Schaefer, 85, said he would love to be Baltimore's mayor again but that, given his advanced age, it would require "divine intervention."
"You hear that, Lord?" he said, looking up toward the ceiling.
Schaefer waxed nostalgic during and after the public works board meeting, one of the last such meetings he will participate in as a public figure. His loss in a tight, three-way Democratic primary in September appears to have ended a 50-year career in public service that included four terms as Baltimore's mayor and two as governor.
"If my health stays good, I don't really know what I'll do," Schaefer said. "I know what I'd like to do. I'd like to be mayor, but I won't be mayor. Mayor was the best job I ever had."
He praised Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., calling him honest and hardworking and saying he ranked as one of Maryland's best governors.
"You know when you lose - and I hadn't lost in a long, long time - it's hard," Schaefer told Ehrlich. "It really is, particularly when you know in your own mind ... you're the best person for the office, and all of a sudden something happens and the electorate makes a mistake."
Schaefer said he admired Ehrlich for making time for his family and leading a "balanced life" that wasn't wholly consumed by politics.