When Parris N. Glendening left Florida State University with a Ph.D. in 1967, he considered his first teaching job at the University of Maryland temporary -- certainly not leading to permanent residence in Prince George's County.
Like many young academics, Glendening, then 24, planned to establish a reputation outside the university system that produced him, and then return to his alma mater as a senior faculty member.
But fate took a strange turn for Glendening, now an associate professor of government at Maryland. Long attracted to politics, he eventually succumbed to the charms of elective office. After working for the elections of others, he was appointed to the Hyattsville City Council in 1971.
Glendening won election to that body in 1973, and captured a County Council seat in 1974. He won re-election to the County Council in 1978 and was handed the gavel last week as the new council chairman.
Glendening, now 37, does not try to hide his ambition to become a congressman or county executive one day.
"If the opportunity presents itself or can be made, I would certainly like to move up to higher office," said Glendening, leaning forward in his chair, surrounded in the cubbyhole of a professor's office by a wall of books, file cabinets, and a desk cluttered with papers.
"Sure, I'm interested in a congressional seat or perhaps the county executive's seat," he continued. "There was once a time when being in the state legislature was considered a move up, and while I'm sure there are some state senators who would disagree, I don't think that's really any longer true."
Glendening argues that ambition is healthy in a democracy, because it makes the politician ever mindful of his duty as a public servant to do the best job possible. Although that belief may be correct, it has also added a dash of bitterness to his relationship with County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan and with some council members.
For the past two years, Glendening had been denied the council chairmanship largely because his peers felt that he suffered from an excess of ambition, according to several council members. Moreover, relations between Hogan and Glendening have become chillier in the past year because Hogan believes that the two-term council member is after his job.
Since a bitter exchange at a convention in Ocean City this past August, the two have hardly spoken to each other.
Glendening, who grew up in a low- to moderate-income family in Tallahassee, Fla., said that he is not ashamed of his ambition.
"When I was younger, people would always tell me what I couldn't do, so I made it a point to surprise them," said Glendening, peering though his glasses with a look that seemed to penetrate the wall and enter the past.
"I ended up being the first person in my family with a Bachelor's degree and the youngest person ever to graduate with a Ph.D. in the Florida State government department," he said.
Then, returning to the present, he added, "It just doesn't seem to me that ambition is anything to be ashamed of. If our politicians had a bigger dose of individualism and ambition, this country would have a much easier time addressing its problems."
As a politician on the move and a full-time college professor, Glendening has a schedule that leaves little time for long lunches, leisurely chats or flights of the imagination. He is usually up before the sun and rarely in bed before midnight.
During the daylight hours, Glendening is either delivering a university lecture on fiscal management, counseling students, participating in a County Council meeting or hearing, or directing the work of his fiscal policy and planning committee, one of two standing council committees.
In the evening, Glendening is likely to be found knocking on doors and introducing himself to constituents because, he said, he wants to get to know them better. "A lot of people peek out of their doors and ask me what I am running for. They're really surprised," he said. He also often grades papers, or attends some kind of civic meeting -- perhaps of homebuilders or municipal leaders.
"I like politics," said Glendening, "i think it's fun -- not fun in the sense of being easy, but fun in the sense of being enjoyable. It's great to put something together and see it succeed, see it have a real impact. I get a tremendous feeling of personal satisfaction when I make a contribution."
Though Glendening's record as a legislator has no particular sparkle to it -- he points to a bill on signboard sizes as being his most important -- he has made a contribution as an idea man.
"Around here, he is sometimes referred to as the 'council intellect,'" said a secretary in the council office.
One brainchild of Glendening's was a budgeting procedure that requires county agency heads to present three budget proposals to the council, each representing a different level of service delivery.
"With this system, we leave the decision on what exactly to cut in the hands of the people who spend the money and deliver the services," said Glendening. "It works out pretty well."
As a scholar and teacher at the University of Maryland, Glendening has also enjoyed a fair amount of success. He has co-authored two books, "Controversies of State and Local Political Systems" and "Pragmatic Federalism" and has written nearly 40 essays, articles, and papers.
Moreover, among students, he is regarded as a good teacher, and a very popular one.
"He got a standing ovation at one of his final lectures last year," said a former student.
To gain a respite from the pressures of the political and academic worlds, Glendening tries to leave weekends free of meetings and excess paperwork, and spend time with his wife, Frances, and new-born son, Raymond.
"I usually sleep pretty late on Saturday mornings," said Glendening, "It's also fun sometimes just to have a few friends over, watch the football game, and put away a few bottles of Stroh's."
And when he gets the chance, Glendening also reads history and science fiction.
Looking ahead to the future, he sees rough political waters.
"One of the real difficulties of being a politician is reconciling the conflicts between representing the people and doing what you think is best," said Glendening.
While keeping an open mind to other kinds of modification, Glendening said he is leaning towards an amendment to TRIM that would go before voters next year and would enable the county to get revenue from new development, but would not allow increases in the taxes of present property owners.
"I believe we could get the eight votes on the council needed to put it on the ballot," said Glendening.
"In the coming months, I plan to sponsor some type of legislation that would modify TRIM. It may do a great deal of damage to me politically, but I believe somebody has to stand up to the problem," he added.
"Elected officials can't keep their heads in the sand on this one. If we don't get some revenue from the new development coming into Prince George's County, we're headed for a short-term financial disaster."
Ironically, the success of Glendening's efforts may depend on how much help he can get from his rival on the fifth floor of the County Administration Building, County Executive Hogan.
Even if the amendment makes it to the voters, Hogan's blessing could be critical in convincing county voters that it was not a retreat from the battle to cut property taxes and waste in government.
"I hope my new job as County Council chairman will serve as a stimulus for a better relationship between me and the county executive," said Glendening. "We may never be bosom buddies, but we do need to be respectful of one another and work together."
Indeed, on this one relationship may hinge the success of any modifications of TRIM or, for that matter, the passage of any major legislation in the county council in the coming year.