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Advertise on the Tentacle

February 13, 2006

Git'er Done Davy, 'er Jeff

Norman M. Covert

What will be the legacy of Mayor William Jefferson Holtzinger? Will he have the lasting quality of Frederick's indomitable chief executive, the late Mayor Lloyd Culler, or will he be lumped with those who trekked from the former Opera House City Hall on North Market Street to new quarters in the Old Courthouse?

Mr. Holtzinger has lots of opportunities for greatness, just as did his predecessors. He will, however, have just as many chances to fall on his own petard on issues that will hardly measure up to the magnitude of growth or abundant water.

He started off last week by giving one hour's notice to a City Hall executive branch team designed by the previous mayor to "find" additional water sources for the city. That lopped about $230K from the new budget. I'm sorry for the former employees' families, but they hitched up to the wrong wagon.

Insiders, though, say that the mayor's office suite is floundering right now. Many phone messages, for example, remain without response, backed up in the queue of the mayor's clutter.

Routine paper management, our source said, hardly exists and there is general trepidation that some key offices in the basement and over in public works will soon be vacated.

One of Mr. Holtzinger's predicaments is wondering, with reason, in whom he might place trust and confidence? Mayor Jennifer Dougherty was her own best assistant. Her admin and organization abilities were far above any that could be provided by the office aides, who remain, at least for the time being.

Mayor H. is keeping his own counsel at the moment probably because his transition team leader, Del. Rick Weldon, is jousting in Annapolis right now. The now dispersed team may or may not maintain any "kitchen cabinet" status.

A weekly news session is a good idea for the mayor, if only to give him a regular forum with deadlines to meet and papers to prepare. He needs to get his public information sea legs first. With experience mostly talking shop in public works and not a lot before the bar, he has limited political bombast.

He's in a new world where the voters want immediate information. He must figure out if and how a trusted public information (PI) aide can maintain an information flow that benefits both him and the citizenry.

Winchester Hall still stumbles and fumbles in the PI arena and the mayor needs more than Ms. Nancy Poss has been able to bring to his administration.

It would be prudent for Mayor H. to be reticent in putting confidence in her. With no malice towards Ms. Poss, she had no opportunity to shine with Miz Mayor. A good public affairs person is worth his or her hire in forming the historical legacy of any mayor.

He doesn't need another person to juggle appointments. He needs someone who is comfortable with all media formats and can (1) meet their needs and (2) set him up for success. He needs someone to coach stage presence and nuances of public speaking.

The new mayor is no golden tongue and needs someone with PI expertise to help him get beyond his public speaking struggles of late. His "aw shucks" approach prior to inauguration included "speeches" with only limited substance in city venues.

He can no longer be a shrinking violet on the dais. He will never be a Miz Mayor, who had a grasp of many issues and an understanding of her goals. He can, however, be a "communicator," as it were.

His legacy may indeed be the water pipe from the Potomac, but that has lots of negotiatin' and cipherin' left in order to nail down the city's agreement with the county.

One would guess the new administration would like to avoid such pitfalls as Ms. Mayor's no-win Ten Commandments/cemetery issue; failed leadership decisions regarding the Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts; or, God forbid, the "speed humps" that bedevil anyone attempting to traverse Fairview Avenue.

One speed hump, or "b-u-m-m-m-p," might have sufficed to a reasonable person, but one supposes a couple vocal residents insisted on there being at least four, spaced about 150 feet apart. For certain the speed "humps" slowed everyone down, but will not be welcome if you are in an ambulance with the advanced life support person trying to put an intravenous device in your arm.

Baughman's Lane is a constant reminder that former Mayor Paul Gordon lives in that neighborhood. Approaching the four-way stop from the west, your tires rumble over the remains of the asphalt strips he ordered installed near the intersection with Shookstown Road.

The shoulder-to-curb strips lasted longer than the fabled "Hoke Rope" did at Fort Detrick's front gate in 1987. It was a trifling thing and Paul had the power to get it done - and undone, when the voters complained.

Paul, as mayor, also got the ball rolling on the city's 250th anniversary, but the voters didn't let him finish it. That was left to Mayor James Grimes. Paul's historian feathers molted until the county chose him to chair its 250th anniversary, more than a year later.

For certain, Mayor Ron Young's legacy is the beauty and charm of downtown Frederick, including the genesis of the Carroll Creek Promenade, which is showing signs of progress.

Ron's vision and accomplishments will be appreciated one of these days. One reason he was voted out of office is the same reason he transformed downtown -- Ron didn't suffer "little thinkers," who we know can be "little stinkers."

Jimmy Grimes? We don't remember any rumble strips or speed humps, only that he was an honorable man who maintained the ship of state. He achieved success with hard work, good friends, a yellow helicopter and big tow trucks.

Mayor Grimes was driven from office by a scandal that never was and a media smear that proved you don't argue with those who buy ink by the barrel.

Jeff Holtzinger? Gird your loins, young man, mind your tongue, and if you heed one piece of advice, remember what some of us kids learned from Davy Crockett, "Be sure you're right, then go ahead!"

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