The welcome-home party for Maryland Lt. Governor-elect Michael Steele at Prince George's Community College was packed with many of the county's top Democrats. They weren't shy about cozying up to the Largo resident whom, a little more than a month ago, they were trying to defeat.

"I'm a Republican in Prince George's County! That's scary stuff," Steele said to laughs at last week's gathering, which included County Executive Jack B. Johnson, new County Council member Samuel L. Dean and several Maryland House delegates, all of them Democrats, and Democratic icons such as former council member Dorothy F. Bailey.

"I can be as partisan as the best of them, but there is a time to be partisan and there is a time for people to come together," Steele said. He said he plans to talk one-on-one with every county lawmaker to seek new ways to improve the quality of schools and to accomplish other items on their agenda.

Steele said that shortly after he was elected, someone asked, " 'So when are you leaving Prince George's County?' I ain't going nowhere. It is important for me to be here, not as a lieutenant governor, but as a black man raising a black family in a black neighborhood.

"It is not to exclude the white folks. I love white folks; it's not about that. It's about our community. It's not about exclusion. It is a movement of inclusion, because we can compete in the arena of ideas, the arena of business, the arena of politics. That is the juice of a vibrant black community."

Although the room was filled with people smiling, clapping and whispering that Steele might make a good governor one day, Johnson focused instead on recent remarks by Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott, who had been expected to become Senate majority leader.

At a 100th birthday party for retiring South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond last week, Lott said that Mississippians remain "proud" of having supported Thurmond's 1948 presidential bid, which was based on a segregationist platform. "If the rest of the country had followed our lead," Lott added, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

Johnson, a native of South Carolina, said that he was deeply offended by Lott's comments. Although President Bush and many Republican leaders, including Steele, have denounced Lott's comments, an unimpressed Johnson said, "Actions speak louder than words."

"When they say it is 'not a big deal,' I want to make certain that it is a big deal," Johnson said.

Steele said he thought that even though Lott apologized, "He needs to keep apologizing."

On the local front, Johnson said, "I am looking forward to working with [the new Republican administration] in terms of education, crime reduction and economic development to make Prince George's County what it should be."

Dean said he isn't concerned that Steele is a Republican. "My bottom line is what is best for Prince George's County, not party labels," he said. "Michael can help us. I know him; I think that he is a honorable person."

Steele said he has been called an Uncle Tom for his conservative Republican views, but he said such labels don't faze him.

"I know there have been shots thrown at me, and that's okay, but the reality still remains, nothing has changed," Steele said. "Our kids still need help, our communities still need help, and it is up to us to make it happen."

'Wayne and Ron' Live Prince George's has its own new comic duo: Wayne and Ron, or is it Ron and Wayne?

Ronald A. Williams, the Prince George's Community College president, and erstwhile county executive Wayne K. Curry debuted their act at a holiday party that Williams hosted for college and county movers and shakers last week at his Mitchellville home.

As part of a tribute to Curry, Williams presented the former exec with a wooden sculpture from the college president's native country of Barbados, which, he said, is "just like Prince George's County -- the trees are disappearing because everyone's building homes."

The mahogany piece looked like an abstract upraised finger. Curry, flanked by his wife, Sheila, and their two young children, called it "a digital image."

The two men recalled their first meeting, shortly after Williams arrived in 1999. It was scheduled for 30 minutes but lasted 75. Williams said that Curry talked the whole time, but Curry, known for his loquaciousness, protested, "Anybody who believes I had a meeting with Ron and did all the talking. . . ."

Since being succeeded Dec. 3 by Johnson, Curry said, "I don't talk as much as I used to. I've been in detox for a week now."

As for his relationship with Williams, Curry added, "Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we really did see eye-to-eye. I commend President Williams on his very progressive thinking." Turning to Williams's wife, Narcisa, he said, "Narcisa, you're to be commended for teaching him that."

Williams, whose re{acute}sume{acute} includes having been a sprinter on the Barbados Olympic team, thanked Curry for supporting his funding requests, especially with county money he needed to rebuild the school's outdoor track.