When Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes last week introduced Frank A. Hall as his new secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services--a.k.a. chief of prisons--he was following a familiar pattern of extended deliberation.
It has been five months since Thomas W. Schmidt decided to retire as Hughes' corrections secretary. In those months, amidst speculation and debate on an issue that has troubled him throughout his years as governor, Hughes has searched for a successor, plodding forward in a methodical fashion.
Finally, more than a month after Schmidt took a final vacation, leaving the department without a working secretary, Hughes named Hall. At the same time, he named Calvin A. Lightfoot as the department's number two man. That combination may be the ideal Hughes has been searching for since he first took office in January 1979.
At that time, he named as secretary Gordon Kamka, a man with a progressive approach toward corrections that included early release programs. A little more than two years later, Kamka left under fire with the prison system in chaos and Hughes at the nadir of his first term. Hughes then named Schmidt, a budget expert and highly respected manager, to put the system back together.
Schmidt, with his cool efficiency and--compared with Kamka--hard-line approach, won the respect of many. Even state legislators, who normally revel in kicking Hughes appointees around their committee rooms, were openly disappointed when Schmidt decided early this year to retire.
His departure left Hughes with a decision: should he go back to the Kamka-style liberal secretary, the kind of person whose philosophy he basically agrees with, or, at a time when there is an outcry for a tougher approach to prisoners, bring in a hard-liner.
He went for a compromise.
In Hall, he has an experienced corrections expert, a man who has run the Massachusetts system and the New York State youth system. Although conservatives will label Hall a liberal, his reputation, according to legislators who have checked his history, is moderate.
In Lightfoot, Hughes has a man who has worked in the Maryland system (Baltimore city jail 1979-81), someone whose prison philosophy is probably close to his and, in a system where a majority of the prisoners are black, a black administrator.
State Sen. Clarence Mitchell III (D-Baltimore) may be facing charges for carrying a concealed weapon through a metal-detecting machine at an airport last month, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
Last week, when Mitchell was casually asked by anyone how things were going, he had a standard reply: "You know me, have gun, will travel."
Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery) was a recent guest at the Burning Tree Club, the exclusive all-male Bethesda golf club that was the subject of so much controversy during the session because of an attempt to end its property tax exemption.
The bill that would have eliminated Burning Tree's annual $152,000 exemption because it discriminates against women was killed by parliamentary maneuvering in the session's final hours but will be introduced again next year.
Levitan, who shot an 87 at Burning Tree, said the course was gorgeous and superbly kept. "I think they could survive paying their property taxes," he said with a grin, adding he would support the legislation next year.