OCEAN CITY, MD., AUG. 22 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer preached cooperation today, which was an easy task in front of the friendly crowd of local officials gathered for the annual meeting of the Maryland Association of Counties.

Most of the county officials had supported Schaefer's decision last year to give up the Baltimore mayor's office and run for governor, and they have been supportive and appreciative of his efforts to include them in state policy decisions.

However, there are still a few doubters, Schaefer said: "A lot of you still don't believe in me."

And he said that some local officials even believe that they will have better luck dealing with the General Assembly by opposing Schaefer rather than cooperating with him.

"Oh, what a dumb man that is," Schaefer said.

"When you go 'round that left end . . . solely to show you're bigger than the governor, I don't like that," he said. "Not that I'm vindictive," Schaefer added quickly, as the crowd laughed. "I've never been known as vindictive."

In fact, Schaefer has been known for never forgetting an enemy. But his remarks today were before friends, and they were mostly good-natured. He put aside a 53-page speech painstakingly prepared by his staff and spoke as subjects came to mind.

Schaefer's manner was as informal as the mood at the annual gathering the state's politicians call "MACO." Last year, the excitement came from the free-for-all battles for governor and U.S. Senate.

This year, the local officials and their staffs strolled among exhibitors' displays hawking everything from drainage pipes to "no-water" toilets, and one of the biggest events was Friday night's crab feast.

"Last year was much different," said Schaefer, who wore a short-sleeve sports shirt. "I wore my coat."

The governor and his administration dominated many of the sessions, as the governor stressed local-state relations. He made his cabinet spend Friday afternoon waiting at tables for any local official who wanted to drop by with a problem.

If there is a value in the conference, he said, "it's that you go back in that cooperative way, working together."

Schaefer said he was tired of "area-bashing" by some officials, which he defined as one area of the state opposing projects in other areas. Although he wasn't specific, in the past Schaefer has been angered by officials in the Washington area who have opposed his plan for the state to build two stadiums in downtown Baltimore.

Schaefer also said he understood and valued the importance of international trade, despite a "vicious" editorial in The Washington Post that declared him a man "of no vision" on the issue.

Schaefer delayed for several weeks a proposal for the state to buy Japanese-made cranes for the Port of Baltimore even though the price from the Japanese company was $7 million less than the nearest American bidder.

"We dared to say we'd like to see our companies compete, " Schaefer explained, adding that he knew international trade meant a "great opportunity to sell our products in other countries."

Schaefer also bragged of his accomplishments in the legislature, saying that he had proved wrong those who said he couldn't work within the state process.