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  •   Louis L. Goldstein

    Tuesday, July 7, 1998; Page A12

    Longtimers outlast enough of their colleagues, they are accorded titles such as "dean" or "legend" that often gloss over waning performances. That was how some misguided challengers over the decades attempted to portray 40-year incumbent Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein: over the hill, or still using quill pens to log revenues. But this high-energy cornball "legend" -- once affectionately introduced as "the state fossil" -- ran a thoroughly modern, high-tech office that won him professional regard as well as the votes of huge majorities. Mr. Goldstein, who died at 85 at his Calvert County home over the weekend, was the unbeatable "Mr. Maryland."

    Though Mr. Goldstein may be best remembered for his robust handshake and drawled signature greeting, "God bless y'all real good," behind this folksy manner was a keen financial acumen. He would caution governor after governor against any policy that might threaten the state's AAA bond rating. A good six weeks before the stock market tumbled in 1987, Mr. Goldstein recommended that the Maryland Retirement and Pension Board, which he headed, switch $2 billion from stocks to bonds -- thus avoiding large losses.

    Mr. Goldstein also was one of three members of the powerful Board of Public Works, which approves most state contracts and major purchases. He became point man, mastering minute details and firing tough questions at agency heads. He did well by his own finances, too, buying thousands of acres in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore in 1950s and '60s. Land was a good investment, he would tell anybody, "because the Good Lord isn't making any more of it."

    Mr. Goldstein had a remarkable run as the tax collector people loved. In 1964 he ran in the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat but lost to Joseph D. Tydings. Four years ago, Mr. Goldstein went for his 10th term, saying he would not run again. But the death of his wife, Hazel, in 1996 prompted him to change his mind. The countless stories of Louie Goldstein's bull roast/crab feast/everywhere campaigning, his financial skills and his belief in meeting the public he served will endure as his contribution to the state he adored.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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