He was known, briefly, as "the missing mayor of Hagerstown." Now Donald Frush, private citizen, recalls those few tumultuous weeks last March with brisk dismissal.

"The media was to blame," Frush, 55, said recently.

Frush's unexplained and well-publicized absence from the city at the height of his reelection campaign was a puzzle to family friends and city employes, and it drew inquiries from reporters from Atlanta to New York.

Later, his family announced that Frush had entered Johns Hopkins Hospital as a voluntary psychiatric patient suffering from stress, fatigue and complications resulting from a gum infection. The Republican mayor was hospitalized for most of March and lost his March 26 bid for reelection to Democratic challenger Steve Sager by a wide margin. Before his absence, Frush, a former financial consultant who had built a reputation as a reliable if fiercely opinionated mayor, had been regarded as an easy winner.

These days, he said, "I'm taking an extended vacation. I'm studying and reading and visiting. I just got back from a trip to Charleston, S.C., and I've never felt better in my life. I'm in very good health. All my problems back then were physical, anyway."

But, he added, after 25 years of service in local government as a city council member, then as mayor, it has been hard to give up his involvement in the affairs of the city. And he hinted that he might once again enter the local political arena.

"I love this town," Frush said. "I'm giving some thought right now to running for office again. It's too early to say, but it's very possible."