Louis L. Goldstein, an institution in Maryland government who has served nearly half a century in public office, was sworn in Monday for an unprecedented seventh term as comptroller of the treasury.

Goldstein, 69, took the oath of office from Gov. Harry Hughes, who was just 12 years old when Goldstein was first elected as a state delegate from Calvert County in 1939.

Goldstein has been in elected public office in Maryland continuously for 44 years, with the exception of four years during World War II, when he was in the Marine Corps.

With his left hand on a stack of four Bibles, each opened to the 23rd Psalm, and his right hand in the air, Goldstein once again publicly pledged to obey the laws of the state and the nation.

His wife, Hazel, who received almost as much applause as he did from the standing-room-only crowd in the House of Delegates chamber, stood at his side. The white-haired official described her as "my law partner, my business partner and my bed partner."

Rabbi Morris Rosenblatt of Annapolis described Goldstein during the invocation as "dynamic, charismatic and effervescent."

Hughes said: "He has lost none of his enthusiasm, none of his energy, none of the enjoyment he gets out of serving in public office. No one works harder or takes his job more seriously."

In his distinctive accent (he pronounces the name of his home county as if it were spelled Cull-vert, and always emphasizes the first syllable in the word comptroller), Goldstein warned that hard economic times and a new round of federal budget cuts could make the next four years a difficult time for Maryland government to continue to provide quality services to taxpayers.

But as he has done so often in the past, Goldstein described himself as an optimist, saying, "I am confident that we will see an economic recovery."

Maryland's entire state budget totaled just $36 million when Goldstein began his career as an elected official in the House of Delegates in 1939.

Goldstein ticked off the statistics that point up the enormous growth in government since he first came to Annapolis: $193 spent by state agencies every second, $696,523 every day, more than $500 million every month, more than $6 billion a year.

Noting that Goldstein's election to seven terms as comptroller is a record, Hughes said he also believes that Goldstein has served longer in elective office than anyone in Maryland history.

John C. Donohue, the master of ceremony, said he figures Goldstein has driven 540,000 miles, or 21 times around the earth, just going to and from work in his 24 years as comptroller. That, Donohue noted, wouldn't include all the other miles the comptroller has driven attending political affairs, club meetings, ground breakings, dedications, bull roasts and civic events.

The comptroller's swearing in drew most of the state's top elected officials. Among those sharing the spotlight in addition to Hughes were Lt. Gov.-elect J. Joseph Curran, Attorney General Stephen Sachs, U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Rep. Roy Dyson, State Treasurer William S. James, and Robert Murphy, chief judge of the Court of Appeals.