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The mayor in the water: a reporter's view from Wilson Aquatics Center

Former New York Times reporter Ed Cowan shared a recent run-in with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) with readers of his e-mail alerts that he calls "Reports to DC Voters, a pro bono, intermittent series of news items and commentaries."

Check out what happened when Cowan went to the Wilson Aquatics Center. He titled it, "Just Another Swimmer."

When Mayor Adrian Fenty stepped out onto the pool deck at the Wilson Aquatics Center at midday Wednesday, he wore swim trunks and carried a bulky, blue duffel bag 36 or 40 inches long.

The assistant manager of the pool, Preston Graham, had just told me that I could not leave my small, canvas bag on the pool deck. He said the Health Department had inspected Wilson earlier in the week and decreed that only "mesh bags" could be brought to the deck. (Don't ask me why.)

"What about him?" I said to Graham, pointing at the mayor.

With minimal delay, Graham approached Fenty and told him that he could not drop his blue bag on the deck.

The mayor whirled and asked for an explanation. Graham told him what he told me, that bags (except mesh) had to be stowed in one's locker. Fenty's eyebrows shot up, and he asked more questions. Visibly and audibly, he was irritated.

"33,000 people work for me," he said, his voice trailing off. The rest sounded something like "I can't control what all of them do."

Patiently, Graham, who looked to be a little younger than the 39-year-old mayor, explained again that the bag had to be removed from the deck. Still glowering, Fenty moved it back to a corner near a door. Later, with Fenty still in the water, it was gone. Graham told me that Fenty had put it in his locker.

Fenty, wearing goggles and carrying flippers, jumped into one of two lanes reserved for Masters program swimmers -- people who swim seriously several times a week for speed and endurance.

There were five other swimmers in the lane. A coach on the deck was instructing and timing them.

When I finished my swim, I asked the coach if the mayor was "fast enough for your group." He replied, "He's okay. He needs to work more on his [arm] pull." He added that Fenty was "a terrific runner."

-- Nikita Stewart

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 28, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Mayor Fenty , Nikita Stewart  
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"33,000 people work for me," he said, his voice trailing off. The rest sounded something like "I can't control what all of them do."- Fenty


You mean 28,050. Remember you fired 15% of them last year because of "budget pressures", and according to Chancellor Rhee, molesting young children.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | January 28, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

What a wonderful post!

Of course, no surprise. Emperor Adrian (who triathletes while DC crumbles, a la his predecessor Nero) is a firm believer in the Orwellian adage that "all [insert animal species of choice] are created equal... but some are more equal than others."

Posted by: nan_lynn | January 28, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

How arrogant! 33,000 work for him. That's the first time I've ever heard a mayor say that. So they work for him and not the city government. Just him. I don't like the sound of that! MUTINY!!!

Posted by: candycane1 | January 28, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm with the Mayor on this one.

For around 25 years I have left my duffel bag on the deck, near where I am swimming, at many different pools, both in DC and otherwise. It is the smart thing to do.

I am curious about the "Health Dept rules". What are they? Clearly, they are new and untested.

Posted by: DCwavesDad | January 29, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Midday Wednesday! He has time to swim during the height of a government business day?

I say "Everybody in the pool- all 28,000".

Posted by: shank2sb | January 29, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

shank2sb wrote "Midday Wednesday! He has time to swim during the height of a government business day?"

Maybe a better use of Hizzoners time would have been sending the Parks and Rec's contracts over to the Council for ratification. Further, maybe he should be working with Joseph Walsh, Director of the Department of Employment Services on job developoment for the 12.1% of District residents who find themselves unemployed. Or maybe we should all show up at the Wilson Acquatic and take a dip with the Mayor to remind him that we are too busy looking for jobs that DC hasn't created and don't have time to take a leisurely swim.

Posted by: lacairaine | January 29, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

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