The first woman mayor of Annapolis made the pledge at an inauguration attended by some of the biggest names in Maryland politics.
"What I promise you is that my administration will be defined by positive energy, enthusiasm and initiative," Democrat Ellen O. Moyer said during her 2001 swearing in.
Four years later, Moyer can point to a long list of accomplishments, including helping to revitalize West Street and boosting pay and benefits for the city's police officers and firefighters.
But her promises to bring a positive tone and collaborative spirit to City Hall have become a key issue in her bid for re-election. Critics call her testy and impatient. City Council meetings routinely include peevish exchanges between her and Aldermen Louise Hammond (D-Ward 1) and Sheila M. Tolliver (D-Ward 2), neither of whom is running for reelection.
Her opponents in the three-way mayor's race have criticized Moyer's leadership style in their campaigns to unseat her in the Nov. 8 election.
"The current mayor, and sometimes her staff, have repeatedly denounced those who disagree with her," independent candidate Gilbert Renaut declares on his campaign Web site. "This is wrong."
GOP challenger George O. Kelley Sr., a former Democrat and Moyer ally, switched parties and launched his own mayoral bid over differences with the mayor. "You've seen council meetings," said Kelley, who is giving up his Ward 4 alderman's seat to run for mayor. "The mayor becomes confrontational, visibly agitated and, in my opinion, unprofessional."
The attacks bear a certain irony for Moyer. "Divisive" and "confrontational" were words she used to describe her opponent in the 2001 election, Republican Herb McMillan. Moyer, an Eastport alderman for 14 years before ascending to the mayor's job, said that she values differing opinions and that her administration has emphasized collaboration.
She has relied heavily on citizens committees to tackle such issues as downtown parking, affordable housing and, most recently, annexation. And she has marshaled volunteer support on numerous environmental initiatives. "That is my leadership style," she said. "It's about energizing people to control their own destiny."
Despite divisions on the nine-member City Council, Moyer's supporters point to her success in rallying a council majority to push through her agenda. Annapolis operates under what is known as a "weak mayor" system, meaning the mayor has just one vote on the council and is without veto power.
"If you can't get five votes, you might as well be a dogcatcher, because you can get a lot more done," said Dennis Callahan, a former Annapolis mayor and a Democrat. "And Ellen has displayed the ability to get five votes when she needs them."
Among Moyer's proudest accomplishments, she said, is securing more funds for police officers and firefighters. Since she came into office four years ago, the city budget has grown by about $7 million, about 87 percent of which has gone into public safety, she said. The increased funds have been used to update equipment and improve pay and benefits, helping to stem the exodus of young officers to better-paying jurisdictions. Both departments were nationally accredited for the first time.
"When I came into office, we had a crisis in the police department, and we had a crisis in the fire department, and it required tough decisions," Moyer said.
Her efforts won her the backing of the city's police, fire and labor unions. Though the unions typically side with Democrats, these endorsements were notable. The police union bypassed one of its former members in Kelley, a former Annapolis police officer who has centered his campaign on improving public safety. And the firefighters' decision was a turnaround from 2001, when they endorsed Moyer's opponent.
Moyer also pushed through funding to complete capital projects that had languished at City Hall through previous administrations, including the refurbishment of West Street and the completion of Knighton Garage. And under her tenure, the city achieved its highest bond rating ever, saving it millions in interest payments on the bond market.
"This city is in the best financial shape it has ever been in," she told a group of women voters recently.
But Renaut and Kelley have hammered away at what they say is her inability to work with people who disagree with her. And both are critical of how her administration handled the failed Market House lease negotiations with upscale grocer Dean & DeLuca.
"It's unfortunate that she felt the need to handle it behind closed doors," Kelley said. "People want an open, transparent government."
Renaut, 58, said the ability to get five votes on the City Council isn't good enough. He is a recently retired federal litigator whose duties included mediation, a skill he says he would bring to City Hall. He formerly served as president of the Murray Hill and Ward 1 residents associations and the Community Association of Annapolis. He was also chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee.
"What I'm good at, and have been for a long time, is bringing people to a consensus," Renaut said. "We need this, and we need it bad. I don't think we can take four more years of this."
All the candidates agree that traffic is a key issue with voters, particularly as the city evaluates new annexation proposals along Forest Drive. Mammoth condominium and retail projects underway downtown -- including the Park Place and Westbridge Village developments -- have added to growth concerns; they were approved before Moyer became mayor.
Kelley and Renaut say they favor a moratorium on annexation until sensible policies on development and traffic reduction are developed. "I think we need to put the brakes on until we assess the impact that existing development is going to have on the city," Kelley said.
Moyer said a moratorium has essentially been in place since she appointed an annexation committee to examine those issues in April. Its recommendations are expected after the election.
Renaut said he also wants to eliminate partisan city elections, an issue that has been discussed in Annapolis for years. And he said he would look into changing the city charter to incorporate a city manager to run the day-to-day operations of the city. Right now that job is left to the mayor and her administrators. He said he also wants more emphasis on community policing.
Kelley was elected Ward 4 alderman in 2001. A win on Nov. 8 would make him the city's first elected black mayor. But the African American vote is far from a lock. Heavily Democratic, the city's black voters, who make up about a third of the electorate, fell behind Moyer in 2001, and she continues to enjoy strong support in the black community.
Kelley has centered his campaign on crime reduction. Though crime has gone down in the city over the last 14 years, calls for service have risen dramatically, in part because of increased emphasis on Neighborhood Watch programs.
Kelley said he wants 15 new officers who would be devoted solely to community policing. "These 15 officers would have autonomy to interact with the community," he said, "and they would get to know the community and would know the quality-of-life issues that affect it, like aggressive panhandling or abandoned buildings that become houses for illegal activity."
Kelley, also a pastor at Praise and Deliverance Tabernacle Church, said the focus needs to be on preventing crime instead of reacting to it.
He also favors reducing the cap on the homestead tax credit from 10 percent to 4 percent. The cap limits the amount that taxable assessments on residences can rise each year.
Renaut said he also wants to look at solutions for reducing property taxes.
Both say that though the council has lowered the tax rate each of the last three years under Moyer, tax bills have gone up, in large part because of escalating home prices.
Moyer said lowering the homestead credit would favor wealthier homeowners more than moderate-income residents and could hurt the city's bond rating.
Moyer also said her opponents are wrong to say she has not lowered taxes. Without the tax cuts made during her tenure, she said, the city's portion of the tax bill for a $700,000 home would have gone up an additional $440.
"I'm very proud of the fact that we reduced taxes," she said, noting that in a time of budget crunches, most jurisdictions have maintained or raised their rates.