Remembering Louie Goldstein
By William Donald Schaefer
I first met Louie Goldstein back when I was the mayor of the city of Baltimore, and he was comptroller. I was down in Ocean City and he was giving a speech, and I was hiding behind a pillar just listening to him. He was berating the city, saying the city of Baltimore is a millstone around the neck of the state, and I'm thinking, "Who is this guy?" I was taken aback. When I saw him later, I made sure Louie saw me. I let him know I had been there the whole time. He was all charm. "Oh, God bless you real good, mayor. Oh, good to see you." He was an amazing man. He always made sure that when you left, you left on a high note. I watched that time after time.
There were two sides to Louie. Most people only saw him as a kind of jovial, pat-you-on-the-back sort of fellow, a real good speechmaker who made every other speaker look dull. And that's all I saw until I saw him on the Board of Public Works. He would not allow anything to be done that would affect the state's AAA bond rating, and he could be a difficult, rough man if you brought a project before him that he didn't like.
He was a tough businessman and he knew the value of land. The appraisers would come in and start talking about the value of land and if he didn't agree, he would take the appraisers apart. He would say, "I know that land. I know exactly where it is." If they appraised it too high, they were in for a rough time.
But then it was all over. After he'd make you so mad you wanted hit him, then he'd say, "Now, nothing personal. We're still friends, aren't we? God bless you real good. Have a nice day." I used to watch him and I'd say, "I can't believe this guy."
Of course, Louie owned a lot of land, and sometimes I used to kid him about it. We'd be driving along and I'd say, "Where does your land start Louie?" And he'd say, "Well, it starts here." And I'd say, "Well, where does it end?" And we'd drive and drive and drive, and I'd say, "Where's the end of it, Louie?" And he'd say, "Over there."
One time, we had to make some decision about a little tiny town or village in southern Maryland, way down the end of the world. I've forgotten the name of it. I said "Where in the world is this?" and Louie said, "Wait a minute, I'll get my map" -- he always had a map with him -- and right away he finds this place. It was about the size of a pinhead. I said, "How did you know where that is?" And he said, "I own it."
Louie ran the Board of Public Works. When I became governor, I know he was waiting to see how I was going to handle things, and I was smart enough not to challenge him. The first meeting was just ceremonial, the second meeting we got down to business. I looked over at him and said, "Louie, okay?" And then he starts to run the meeting, and he ran every meeting for eight years. He wasn't arrogant, but you knew he thought he was good.
The one place we often disagreed was on wetlands protection. I was for it, he was against it. He believed that the man who owned the land ought to be able to do what he wants.
His greatest thing was his love of campaigning, his love of being around people. There was no place Louie could go where he wasn't recognized. He wore some of the most fantastic clothes I've ever seen: maybe a green coat, purple trousers, a red shirt. Particularly in the wintertime. He really had fantastic clothes. I guess he thought maybe other people would have to follow his style, and not the other way around.
When I first became a candidate for governor, we bought a bus and Louie and I traveled together. He was a delight to campaign with. Everywhere you'd go, he knew his way around. One time, we were passing through some small town somewhere. If they had 25 people, that was a lot. Louie said, "Let's stop here." I said, "You know, Louie, we've got to move on." But he jumped out. He ran into the post office, and the postmistress came out. "Oh Louie, it's so good to see you." And everybody in town came around.
We got all 25 votes, I'm sure of it. That was Louie.
Around tax time, he used to love to get himself on television and tell everybody, "I'm your friendly tax collector. I'm going to get your refund back to you quick." And people thought that was good. Even if they didn't get their refunds in record time, they knew he was trying.
He and I were both in the service in World War II, and there was tremendous camaraderie because of that. He was a Marine, and he loved to talk about it. We both didn't like how our men were treated in Vietnam. When we came back to the U.S., we could wear uniforms proudly. But these guys coming back from Vietnam, they had to take theirs off. We didn't think much of that.
Louie was a great hunter. He would shoot ducks, and every year he would come back and give me one. The first one, I wasn't too smart: He had only roughly cleaned it, and it wasn't the best job in the world. We cooked the duck, and when I bit into it there were shells inside. After that, I checked the duck a little more carefully.
Louie always knew what was going on on the Board of Public Works, but one time, we decided we were going to name the road after him down in Prince Frederick, and we kept it secret. We called his wife, and we said we were going to be down there at a certain time, then we drove Louie down from Annapolis.
On the way down, the signs were up marking the highway with his name, but they were all covered up. He had no idea what was going on. Then he walked into this ceremony and everybody was cheering. It was the first time Louie was, I think, taken aback. He didn't really know what to say.
That was a real honor, to be able to name something after him. He was legendary. There isn't any question about it.
William Donald Schaefer served as governor of Maryland from 1986 to 1994. He served as mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1986 and is a lifelong resident of Maryland. He was assisted in preparing this article by Washington Post staff writer Peter S. Goodman.
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