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January 4, 2006

Soon Gone, But Not Soon Forgotten

Norman M. Covert

"Thank God and Greyhound she's gone!" rang out the lyrics of that classic country and western ballad. Among some on Market Street, that was the hit of the month in September when Our Jennifer was denied a second term in City Hall.

With the advent of 2006, she's only mayor until the investiture of the new mayor and board at 2 P.M. January 12.

Like it or not, The Hon. Jennifer Dougherty is still a political pachyderm in Frederick, just not in City Hall. That saddens some who thought Frederick was on to something that would grow when she toppled Jim Grimes four years ago and rearranged the office Ron Young first built in the old court house with donated historic furniture and other curios.

We offer congratulations and appreciation to Miz Mayor for her service to the city. Thanks also to Joe Baldi, Bill Hall, and Dave Lenhart, who served us just as faithfully on the Board of Aldermen.

Regardless of the fits and starts, the spats and spites, they served us well and got lots of business done in a difficult time for us. They left enough work to challenge the incoming mayor and board.

The local print and electronic media should send flowers to the soon-to-be former Miz Mayor. She helped fill many a slow news day, especially with her weekly press conferences. Her name (Dougherty NOT Daugherty) rolled from the keyboard to the screen and thence to newsprint and she showed many a young electronic reporter how to use a microphone and/or camcorder.

She wallowed in the glare of being the media darling the first few months of her administration. She equally relished the psycho-semantic (see: Thurber) fisticuffs when her star flashed overload thither and yon as the months wore on.

Most knowledgeable media watchers would agree that Miz Mayor only lost a couple of rounds over four years. Being caught in doublespeak (some called it) regarding the Weinberg Center for the Arts, never stuck to her fedora.

One of her major gaffs was to challenge the commander of Fort Detrick, a move that won her no friends on either side of the fence. Lots of folks took the time to tell her that she could not make the community's largest corporate employer dance on a string. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal construction dollars could be jeopardize by ill-timed civic pronouncements.

Miz Mayor would not have been affordable if her salary had been paid by the hour. She spent long hours at her City Hall digs, time undoubtedly aimed at the welfare of the city and its citizens. If she was ever out sick, no one noticed. Even at her restaurant, she was "on the job" because that is the life of a politician. Go to the store for bread and milk; greet your constituents and answer questions.

We didn't always agree with Miz Mayor, but that is what life is like in small-town America where we revel in freedom to express our feelings, no matter how extreme on both sides of an issue.

If you get right down to it, Miz Mayor based her work ethic on what she learned working in the world of public relations. She was a skilled speaker, who organized her thoughts in a thorough, professional manner. She could organize an event and feed it to the media and she wielded great credibility with the local daily rag's beat writers.

Compared to her predecessors, Ron Young, Paul Gordon and Mr. Grimes, Miz Mayor was a bona fide orator. She spoke with authority and clarity, an obvious graduate of the school of "no ums and errs." She knew how to operate within the confines of the media. She knew the power of the sound byte and the printed quote.

When Miz Mayor's detractors couldn't win an argument based on facts as they saw them, some relegated the debate to personal attacks. Granted, Miz Mayor had a habit of wielding the smirk, raised eyebrow and good "harrumph" during deliberations of the aldermen, but that comes with being human (we daren't say "female').

She ran the meetings with an iron gavel and gave no quarter to dissenting opinion from the board. It is said she was demanding of her staff and tolerated no contrary thinking. She was not at her best in a touch-feely, seminar setting where everyone throws ideas at the moderator, who writes them on butcher paper.

Miz Mayor felt - as chief executive officer - that she owned the pen and paper. She was able to write her thesis and nearly prove most of them. Anyone who has ever wrestled with a university class in statistical analysis knows you can arrange a test of significance to match your thesis any day of the week.

Jennifer Dougherty was no slugabed as mayor and probably set a tone that her successors will be hard pressed to replicate. She took the hard questions and never shied from the naysayers. She won some and some got rained out, but she had a good batting average and her on-base percentage was to be envied.

Whatever the future holds for Miz Mayor, we are certain she will attack it with the same gusto as she did on the job in City Hall. We hope she continues to purvey good food and drink on West Patrick Street, and keep her nose in local politics.

She changed the political face of Frederick County four years ago and it took everything the good old boys had to unseat her.

Thanks, Jennifer, we'll see you downtown.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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