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October 30, 2007

Quiet Mayor

Roy Meachum

Jennifer Dougherty sneaked back into public view. Again. She declared she might be interested in taking on Andrew Duck and the other Democratic candidates who might challenge Roscoe Bartlett for the Sixth Congressional District seat.

The logical question follows: If she couldn't win a second term in heavily Democratic Frederick city, then how can Ms. Dougherty hope to extend waning respect to the county, overwhelmingly Republican?

Then there are the "outside" places that make up the district: all Western Maryland, Carroll and Frederick; bits of Montgomery, Baltimore and Harford counties. She may not know the territory and its leadership. But anyone political knows her - by reputation and the media.

Of course, Frederick city and county has no reason not to be aware of the terribly tempered woman with the penchant of ruling by decree: Off with their heads!

Given the ex-mayor's firm belief that she was "robbed" the last election, her single goal must be reclaiming City Hall. Her frequent public utterances are a way to keep her name "alive," to run again for her old chair.

If that's the case, she certainly knows that dream doesn't have a chance unless incumbent Jeff Holtzinger goes back to making money for his growing brood. Much of the speculation about the 2009 mayoral race centers on will he run again?

The incumbent mayor has said nothing to me about his intentions. But I know from conversations that his opposition to Ms. Dougherty has much to do with the way she handled City Hall employees. After all, he was Frederick's engineer and resigned because of shabby treatment by the then-mayor.

Aside from the pouting asides about his official residence, Ms. Dougherty's followers have had slim pickings since Jeff Holtzinger moved into the mayor's office. Every now and then, I hear allegations about how he sleeps in his county house; that his in-town official address doesn't fool them. No need.

Each time they whisper the charge they slam the door in the ex-mayor's face. After all, it was her failure to move in time that allowed city races to be available for anyone in the nation. The only necessity in 2005: a successful candidate must move into Frederick.

If anyone seriously suspects the current mayor has not met the requirement, the real place to put the charge is "the system," official or judiciary. >From my chair, the allegations about his residence are made because the barrel sits barren, empty of mud that can be used against him.

After the initial furor, his sister-in-law was awarded a City Hall job, based on her qualifications. She plays no policy or political role. She reports in the morning, leaves when the shifts end and goes home to take care of her kids. She calls no attention to herself, which is why I'm not using her name. Every civil servant deserves personal privacy.

Politicians are another matter. Entirely. Having solicited stories and views about Frederick's present mayor, I heard not a whisper that he's tinkering with the common good.

His decision about not holding regular press conferences, as his predecessor was prone to do, brought allegations that City Hall was closed to the view of the public and its media representatives. On the other hand, I've heard no complaints the current mayor fails to return phone calls and provide answers for questions. Not always what the public and media want to hear.

Mr. Holtzinger's silence - when he has really nothing to say - reserves the right for his administration to study, think and reconsider before acting; that galls political busy bodies and their pack. He does not court the media's favor. When broached he tilts his head down before replying to questions. Note: he answers.

Jeff Holtzinger admits mistakes and moves on. He tries to take into account what everybody has to say. By modern example, he is a highly unlikely politician. His first two years (in January) have so far not been accompanied by brawling verbal battles or destructive sarcasm. He is a model of discretion, who public ally keeps his own counsel.

If he chooses to run in 2009, I see no one as a serious challenger, not Marcia Hall or Donna Kuzemchak, both city aldermen. And certainly not Jennifer Dougherty, who incited bellicose words and poses that kept Frederick's City Hall in residents' eyes. Obviously, men and women did not like what they saw or heard.

By contrast, Jeff Holtzinger has earned the label of "the quiet mayor." He exemplifies the theory I've held for years. Between elections, voters prefer officials to bring good news or nothing. Anything awry we expect politicians to fix among themselves. That's what he does.

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