When the inspectors from the Department of Licenses and Permits came down to Eugene Beane's house on Ritchie-Marlboro Road earlier this year and told him he couldn't keep three stoves working on the premises, Beane was livid.
"That Winnie Kelly, he sent those men down here," Beane said later. "He's just no good. He never done nothing for the county but get in our way." Beane retaliated by voting against Kelly for Prince George's County Executive last week and was pleased to be one of the first men to reach up and shake Larry Hogan's hand after his victory speech at the Ramada Inn.
For Beane, who had never voted Republican in the 46 years since he turned voting age in 1932, and for the thousands of other Democrats who turned against him. Kelly was the spectre who hung over everything that even vaguely smacked of government and its infringement on their daily lives.
When the tax bill came this fall, out fell a statement from Kelly talking about lower taxes. When the annual report came each year detailing the uphill battle against crime and neighborhood deterioration, Kelly's picture loomed out at them.
There was Kelly slugging it out with people complaining about their problems at town meetings held each month; there was Kelly front and center at the County Administration Building on Wednesdays at his open door, meet-the-people sessions; and there was Kelly on the pages of the newspapers talking about how he wanted to advance the quality of the county, upgrade its image.
Kelly took responsibility for the police, for the firemen and for the teachers. And soon, every time so much as a street light went out, it was Kelly's doing.
When the voters finally had a chance to strike out at the bad roads, the multitude of fast food stores up the street, the increase in the water bill, they did - directly at and against Winfield Kelly.
When Kelly first came to office four years ago his advisers told the press it wouldn't be able to separate his politics from county government. Kelly would not be a "hide in the office" county executive, but open to any resident who needed him. He said he wanted the government to work better and so embarked on a strategy through the county executive's office to make Prince George's County a household word.
"Prince George's County is me . . . That is what I am," Kelly said recently.
But instead of being re-elected for what he thought was a concentrated effort to create a more responsive local government, Kelly became an easy mark for anything that went wrong.
Last week he lost his attempt at reelection, and, observers said, he lost just because of the high profile he had cultivated so arduously.
"Face it, his PR strategy just backfired on him," said one county observer. "Being a household name isn't necessarily a good thing in a local government."
"Kelly held the most vulnerable position in the county. When anything goes wrong, he is the person who is at fault," said Lance Billingsley, chairman of the county Democratic Party.
Kelly, however, was not available for interviews this week and could not be reach for comment.
"The county executive is really like an umpire in a baseball game," said Kelly press aide, John Lally. "He is absolutely necessary, but even if you do the job perfectly, people are yelling at you for what they see are bad calls."
Kelly not only assumed the leadership role of the county government during the last four years, but also became one of the most visible leaders in his party. During the slate selection process earlier this year, Kelly's marks were everywhere, from the decision to dump council member Francis White from the ticket to the choice of ex-aide Deborah Marshall to replace him.
His use of power not only angered many old-line Democrats but drove several of them into opponent Hogan's lap. Tony Cicoria, a Democrat who ran against the slate and beat it in the 22nd district, actively campaigned for Hogan and made no bones about his dislike for Kelly.
"People are now looking for the independent needs of the people. They don't want party bosses any more."
Tim Maloney, another successful "renegade" from the Democratic ranks, said the Kelly defeat meant "we don't have to take advice from anyone anymore. The Trojan horse has lost its head now. Life has changed."
Even his own party members saw his leadership as ultimately his undoing.
"One of our weaknesses was that we (Democratic Party) allowed one or two to feel they were the backbone," said Rep. Gladys Spellman on election night. "I was sorry to lose Kelly as county executive becasue I think he did a good job. But I think it was his assumed role as leader that lost him the election."