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April 1, 2005

Dave Lenhart's Four F's

Roy Meachum

Alderman David Lenhart's decision to leave politics was a well kept "secret" for weeks before his public announcement Wednesday. In telling me, he cited the most important things in his life - and politics was not among them.

The Georgia-born product of Alabama's Jesuit Springhill College rolled off four F's: family, faith, fishing and then he brought up friends. Obviously, politics doesn't' fit; it begins with the wrong letter. Just a joke!

But, seriously, folks, as every bad comedian says, the first-term alderman reasons that taking on a new four-year commitment to public office would be counter to his family's best interest. His younger child will be entering middle school in the fall and the Lenharts know the importance of maintaining stability until their children graduate high school.

In other words, if Dave is going to take his lures and reels and live closer to a "fishing hole" that offers year-round angling, time is rapidly running out. In preparation for a possible move, he has stepped down from the company he headed, but accepted a consultant's contract that enables him to pursue other interests wherever he chooses.

Cynics who "know" the alderman has blown smoke in the media's eyes by "falsely" announcing his withdrawal from politics are kidding themselves - and anyone else foolish enough to believe them.

Where the Lenhart family's going remains unsettled although they are in the process of checking out possibilities. They're looking South both because of the fishing prospects and it's the region Dave grew up in. They're hoping to find their Shangri-La no later than early summer, so that everything will be settled by the time school bells ring in the fall.

They'll leave behind a passel of friends, many from their active church roles. His willingness to sacrifice public brownie points when causes conflicted with his deeply held religious convictions not infrequently prompted headshaking among supporters.

Didn't he know, for example, it was bad politics standing up for keeping the Ten Commandments stele where it is? Keeping his mouth shut made better political sense. Dave knew all right and plowed right ahead, convinced that removing the plaque was another step in removing God from a society that badly needs Divine help, he believes.

Similarly, his vetoed motion to reduce residency requirements for municipal elected offices was opportunistically twisted into his support for Democratic wannabe Ron Young. Waving off his detractors as he would flies swarming over a fishing creek, the alderman argued the three-year residency for mayor made little sense in terms of what was best for the community.

And, as for that alleged slur he supposedly made against the incumbent mayor, anyone who knows Dave Lenhart knows he simply does not talk that way. Hating a person, any person, doesn't accord with his Christian notion expressed in the teaching: hate a sin but not the sinner.

Since a fellow Republican concocted the allegation, I can only feel that it was prompted by jealousy; the man ran and lost badly his bid for public office. He may run again, ignoring the reality that his attack on the popular alderman repulsed many in his party. Ironically, that furor didn't arise until after Lenhart's decision had been made.

Losing him strikes a blow to the state GOP's hope to unseat Democratic Del. Galen Clagett, if indeed Dave chose to go along with Gov. Bob Ehrlich's urging to run: the district seat that covers Frederick City. Galen figures hard to beat; he attracts conservatives in a way conventional Democrats, like Sue Hecht, cannot. (Ms. Hecht lost out in her attempt to gain the state Senate seat held by Alex Mooney; she has already started canvassing potential supporters about running next year for the House of Delegates.)

But Lenhart's critics are the real losers in his public renunciation of future elections, especially the mayor and Democratic board colleagues Marcia Hall and Donna Ramsburg, who not incidentally seemed to have been the sources that provided the clues that provoked Wednesday's announcement.

The alderman said he had been pestered for days by reporters seeking to confirm his intentions for the future. Obviously, none of his friends tipped the media; they have all known for weeks, as I said. We may very well be the last "F" on his list but each one of us has been cheered and supported by the remarkable man who plans now to move on.

Mayor Dougherty and her claque will have to find a new target for their attack dog mentality. They can no longer validly charge he acts out of political ambition; of course, they might anyway.

Frederick and Maryland are losing a good public servant. Damn!

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