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August 31, 2007

Kuzemchak's Not Listening

Roy Meachum

All the sound and fury coming out of City Hall these days belong to a single alderman. Donna Kuzemchak obviously wasn't listening to voters in the last election.

While Mayor Jeff Holtzinger informs interested parties, including me, that the workings between Republicans and Democrats, his office and the board are relatively free of friction. The occasional fracas, as I understand, derives from opinions, not bare-knuckle politics, as the city endured under the previous mayor's regime.

Ms. Kuzemchak would have the world believe she worries constantly that Mr. Holtzinger may not be a legitimate official. She told News-Post columnist Katherine Heerbrandt she fears he might be another Dave Lenhart.

Switching his professional base to northern Georgia, Mr. Lenhart moved late summer in his final elected year; his timing was predicated by getting his children in school on time. His failure to resign immediately was leaped upon by Ms. Kuzemchak and others close to the mayor at the time. Mr. Lenhart maintained a legal pied--terre until his term expired.

A previous alderman sashayed down the pike not bothering to observe such legal nicety. Jon Kreissig took up residence near his job at Montgomery College, sometimes returning for mayor and board meetings. That went on for nearly a year. At least, Mr. Lenhart satisfied the charter requirement that he retain a city address. Mr. Kreissig didn't bother.

If there had been a legal gambit under the sun, then-Mayor Jennifer Dougherty and Alderman Marcia Hall and Ms. Kuzemchak would have claimed Mr. Lenhart's chair. He held on, with lawyers' approval, to deny Ms. Dougherty and her faction from railroading through another think-alike.

As it was, voters showed Ms. Dougherty the door and decisively; she became modern times' first incumbent mayor to be booted out in her party's primary. Ms. Kuzemchak returned to City Hall but by a very thin margin.

Ms. Hall was waved back in but her reputation ran counter to the other ladies'; she enjoyed respect as a mediator, someone who spoke softly and only after careful thinking and attempts at conciliation.

Only in the midst of the election - and out of public sight - did she reveal her deep partisan bias. I was surprised.

Since receiving the largest tally among the board's Democratic majority, Ms. Hall has served as president pro tem: she stands in when the mayor might be absent. But make no mistake: There's little love lost between the lady and the Republican mayor. She still has the smarts to keep their differences usually out of sight.

Ms. Kuzemchak brawls along at her last term tempo leading to speculation that she rests still cozily in the ex-mayor's pocket. I've engaged in that speculation in earlier columns. But permit me now to doubt myself.

The more I hear and read about the lady, the more I'm prone to believe she just might be in 2009's mayoral contest for herself, and the devil take Ms. Dougherty!

Ms. Kuzemchak certainly possesses enough political instincts to figure out the ex-mayor is no shoo-in, even if Mr. Holtzinger decides to step aside. Whatever her other criticisms, nobody has accused the alderman of being dirt dumb. She certainly realizes that the collapse of Ms. Dougherty's once thriving business empire takes away the former mayor's claim to non-political credentials.

With word filtering along Frederick's Rialto that Ms. Hall is eyeing a very similar approach, why shouldn't Ms. Kuzemchak herself go for the city's golden ring? She may see the public quibbling over Mr. Holtzinger's residency as the chance to keep her name before the electorate. Who can say?

>From my view - with the exception of Commissioner John "Lennie" Thompson - Donna Kuzemchak is the last public official who needs to tug at the electorate's sleeves; everybody knows she's there. What voters would like to learn is that she sent her formerly fractious, argumentative and negative personality out for a hike. That's not happening.

As I have written before, not being privy to Jeff Holtzinger's future plan, he could very well decide four years are quite enough; he has a growing family that needs more money than the city pays.

But facing constant yapping from the likes of Donna Kuzemchak, the former football player could very well put his head down and butt his way into the next elections. From what I hear, he remains the odds-on favorite for four more years, if that's what he wants.

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