On his last day as sheriff of St. Mary's County, Richard J. Voorhaar sat back in his leather chair, stretched his arms behind his head and sighed. It was a day he'd been waiting for since August 2001, when he announced he would not seek reelection.
"I'm just tired," the two-term Republican sheriff said a few hours before handing over the reins to his elected successor, David D. Zylak (D). "The fire goes out, you know."
For John A. "Rodney" Bartlett Jr. (D), the former Calvert County sheriff who was ousted in November by challenger Mike Evans (R), the fires are still burning. In an interview, he said he is not bitter about his landslide loss but then criticized Evans for his choice of assistant sheriff, among other things.
Southern Maryland's two departing sheriffs -- Voorhaar by choice, Bartlett by popular demand -- are a study in contrasts, from their places of birth to their management styles to their exits from public office.
In separate interviews, they both touted their accomplishments in office. But they gave very different answers when asked about their future plans and how their successors would handle their jobs.
In 1994, 20 years after he started as a deputy, Voorhaar became the first officer in recent memory elected sheriff while still in uniform. His tenure as sheriff coincided with tremendous growth in a county where population increased more than 11 percent. The department grew by 36 deputies, to more than 100 employees, and the annual budget to more than $15 million.
During Voorhaar's two terms, crime statistics were a roller coaster, with steep climbs in the late 1990s and a precipitous drop in 2001. The county now has large numbers of drug arrests every year and at least a handful of homicides, making it a different place from the rural county Voorhaar knew as a boy.
"On midnight shifts, when I first started at the sheriff's office, if we saw a car on the highway at 3 in the morning, we'd stop the car and say, 'Why are you out here at 3 o'clock in the morning?' " said Voorhaar, 63. "Now there's constant traffic. People are just going helter-skelter."
Bartlett, a 45-year-old Prince George's County native, grew up in a different time and place. He was a scrappy Prince George's narcotics detective until 1992, when he won an upset victory in an election for union president. He became one of the most powerful labor chiefs in Maryland and was appointed Calvert's sheriff in May 2001 by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).
Bartlett has been praised for bringing the department together after former sheriff Vonzell R. Ward resigned during a state prosecutor's investigation. Bartlett's was the loudest voice amid a chorus that protested the county commissioners' plan to strip the sheriff's office of power and create a county police force.
"An 'outsider' from Prince George's County saved the tradition of a sheriff's office," Bartlett said.
Bartlett also was one of the first Calvert sheriffs in recent memory to hire his top assistant from within the ranks. In an interview, Bartlett criticized Evans for picking an outsider for that job.
Bartlett also accused Evans of "political payoffs," saying he allowed Sgt. Richard L. McDowell, a former sheriff candidate whom Bartlett had suspended, to work again in exchange for his campaign support. Evans called that charge "ridiculous."
Voorhaar, on the other hand, has said little publicly about Zylak, even as the new sheriff planned to transfer some of Voorhaar's favorite deputies.
"I don't intend to second-guess or stay involved," Voorhaar said.
In office, the only obvious similarity between Voorhaar and Bartlett was a penchant for controversy. Voorhaar was constantly controlling damage from department missteps and warring with county commissioners. Bartlett sparked criticism for his high-profile investigations of Republican sheriff candidates, his contentious relationship with a state police commander and sometimes just for being from Prince George's County.
Bartlett said he now will focus full time on the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, of which he has been president for more than six years.
Voorhaar and his wife are moving to their dream house in Morgan County, W. Va., where Voorhaar said he will volunteer and perhaps get a part-time job.
"It won't involve supervision, though," he said. "Maybe mowing grass."
Bartlett, a Huntingtown resident, also may move.
"I'm not welcome in Calvert anymore," he said. "I want my six years of property taxes back."