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Schaefer statue unveiled in Baltimore

Schaefer statue.jpgWilliam Donald Schaefer can still command an audience.

The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor was not listed on the program Monday as having a speaking role at the unveiling of his larger-than-life statue at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. But just as the crowd of several hundred was breaking up, Schaefer (D) decided he wanted to speak -- and everyone stopped in their tracks.

"You don't know what it means to me in sort of the twilight of your life," said Schaefer, who was celebrating his 88th birthday.

The afternoon unveiling was one of those see-and-be-seen events in Maryland politics. Those on the program included Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), also a former mayor of Baltimore, who sparred frequently with Schaefer over the years but credited him with having "a deep love for the people he served."

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who has enjoyed a much warmer relationship with Schaefer, was also on hand. Ehrlich, who is considering a rematch against O'Malley next year, hovered in the back of the crowd and greeted people as they left.

Two of Ehrlich's former chiefs of staff also turned out, along with several members of his former press shop who now work with him in his downtown Baltimore law office.

"There's no one who isn't here," said former Ehrlich communications director Paul Schurick, who also served Schaefer during his tenure as governor.

Other someones there included Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who defeated Schaefer in the Democratic primary in 2006, ending his return to Maryland politics. After serving as governor from 1987 to 1995, Schaefer sought the lower-profile office in 1998, which he used as a platform to share his views on a wide range of issues for eight years.

Others who came to pay tribute to Schaefer included House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); former NAACP leader and Baltimore resident Kweisi Mfume; State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick; Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D); and too many Baltimore-area legislators and former Schaefer staffers to count.

Long-time Schaefer aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs spoke on behalf of the latter group, giving a moving tribute to "a man who wanted action," whom she described as "my boss, my mentor and my best friend."

By John Wagner  |  November 2, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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