Smith resting after bypass

Balto. Co. executive suffers chest pain, has surgery to clear arteries

August 14, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun Reporter

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. was "resting comfortably" yesterday after undergoing triple-bypass surgery in a Towson hospital, his aides said.

The 66-year-old former judge, who was re-elected to his second term as head of the county government in 2006, checked himself into St. Joseph Medical Center on Tuesday after feeling pain in his chest.

"He obviously did the right thing," said Dr. Stephen Pollock, the hospital's chief of cardiology and director of its Heart Institute. "He didn't ignore his symptoms."

Smith did not have a heart attack, Pollock said.

Cardiac specialists scheduled the surgery to correct arterial blockages that were discovered during a series of tests after Smith arrived at the hospital. He is expected to recover fully, according to a statement from Smith's office.

Donald I. Mohler III, a spokesman for the county government, said his boss had been "experiencing some fatigue over the past few weeks" and that on Monday he felt "some tightness" in his chest.

In Smith's absence, the county's business will be directed by Administrative Officer Fred J. Homan, although Smith will be itching to get back to work, Mohler said.

"As soon as he's awake and there's a telephone nearby, the answer to the question as to who's in charge will be Jim Smith," he said. "Mr. Smith will be on the phone as soon as he's ready to dial. The challenge for his family will be to keep him from doing that."

Smith was a member of the Baltimore County Council from 1978 to 1985, when he was appointed an associate judge of the county Circuit Court. He stepped down from the bench in 2001 to run for county executive. Under a term-limit law, his last year in office will be 2010.

In a statement, Smith's family expressed appreciation for the "kind words and expressions of concern he has received" since news of his surgery was revealed.

"I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive," said Michael Paul Smith, his son. "Knowing my father, he will be running circles around the rest of us in a matter of weeks."

County Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a fellow Democrat who has stated his interest in running for Smith's job, said he suspected that something might be amiss with the county executive when he failed to appear as scheduled Tuesday in Ocean City at the summer conference of the Maryland Association of Counties, an organization Smith heads.

"I knew he was supposed to be there," Kamenetz said from the Eastern Shore. "I knew in the back of my mind that something unusual must have come up."

Kamenetz, a council member for 14 years, said he was notified early yesterday that Smith was about to undergo surgery. "I'm glad he sought immediate medical attention," Kamenetz said. "It's a reality check for all of us to prioritize our health and our happiness."

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon released a statement calling Smith "a strong partner for the city throughout his career."

"He is a thoughtful person, a true public servant, and I join my colleagues from around the state in wishing Jim a speedy and full recovery," Dixon said.

Smith and his wife, Sandy, have four children and nine grandchildren, according to a biography issued by his office. The couple has lived in Reisterstown for almost 40 years.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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