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Fraser Smith's Essay: March 7, 2013
March 7, 2013
Not noted for fast, efficient and smart decisions, the Anne Arundel County Council surprised everyone recently when it quickly chose a political unknown to be county executive. Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.
In retrospect, you could argue they had no choice. The Anne Arundel County Council surveyed the field of 16 candidates and chose a complete unknown to succeed the fallen John Leopold.
A clean start was needed in every way. And the council, embarrassed in recent months by a succession of missteps, took the dramatic way out. It pushed all the political contenders curb. Leopold administration applicants failed the fresh air test. The job went to Laura Neuman, a successful businesswoman with an unusual resume.
Without a college degree, she earned a graduate diploma in business. Then she took over a nearly-bankrupt company and turned it around. It sold for $230 million.
She faces a similar task in Annapolis. It’s a different kind of bankruptcy, to be sure, but perhaps a more important one. She quite rightly says her priority is to restore faith in government. Her task comes at a time when government and governors are held in low repute throughout the U.S. Approval ratings for Congress have been in the single digits. Two county executives in Maryland have left office recently in disgrace. A mayor was convicted of taking money from poor people.
So the council was right to look elsewhere for leadership – and, yet its decision was not without peril. Government is not business. The kinds of transparency demanded of county executives may come as a shock to Ms. Neuman. How she adjusts to operating in the political fishbowl will be an earlier indicator of her acumen. Her lack of political experience, an advantage as candidate, immediately becomes a challenge.
She might find all elements of the work rewarding and wish to continue with it. She will have little time to develop a campaign organization. But if she governs well, success in the job might be all the organization she needs.
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