Prince George's Democrat Parris N. Glendening, 40, took control of the county executive's office yesterday in a precise but genial two-hour ceremony where he emphasized both the county's financial problems, including a looming $30 million deficit, and his ability to work with other leaders to solve them.
In an analytical 20-minute address befitting his former job as a political science professor, Glendening repeated an earlier warning that the county faces a $30 to $40 million deficit this year and that layoffs of county workers could result if more money isn't found.
"While fiscal problems make the outcome of some of my efforts uncertain, I do make three promises to the citizens of my county," Glendening said. "I promise to provide aggressive leadership for those things I believe to be right. I promise to be fair. I promise to be accessible."
The sober news about the county's fiscal problems was offset by the warmth of the spring-like weather, the festive air of the outdoor ceremony beneath the balcony of the county administration building, and the high spirits of the participants. Along with Glendening, a new nine-member council was sworn in, watched by spouses, parents, children and grandchildren.
Glendening's 3-year-old son Raymond stole the show when he leaned into the microphone as his father was repeating the oath of office and cheerily announced, "Hi, I'm Raymond."
Later, Glendening presented his wife Frances Ann with a bouquet of red roses, and his son Raymond with a bright red fire truck, "in appreciation for his help in the campaign." Raymond applauded.
Though the new county executive has sometimes been criticized for what has been called a stiff and humorless demeanor, he appeared relaxed and happy yesterday, even when he flubbed the first few lines of his speech. "I ask for your support and trust over the next four days -- excuse me, uh, four years," he said, then laughed. "That's how long the honeymoon lasts in this job."
Relationships were a recurrent theme in the day's speeches, as both Glendening and a representative for the County Council promised to avoid the hostility, and at times, outright war, that often marked the previous all-Democratic council and the outgoing executive, Republican Lawrence Hogan.
As the council's representative, two-term incumbent Floyd Wilson praised Glendening for his ability to cooperate with competing interests. Yesterday, he said, began "a new era of government, a government that I sincerely believe will become a symbol of cooperation bewteeen the executive and the legislative branches." As Hogan sat listening, a gentle smile at times appearing on his lips, Wilson added, "the divisiveness and acrimony of the past will not serve our people as we grapple with the difficult problems ahead."
Wilson, the council's first black member, who is expected to be named the council's vice chairman today, said that at a dinner meeting last week the council members promised to cooperate with each other as well. "Even Sue V. Mills " made that promise, Wilson said of the former anti-busing activist with whom he has often clashed.
After the ceremony, Glendening and the council retreated to open house celebrations on the second and fifth floors of the administration building, where they greeted the estimated 600 guests who attended the swearing-in.