Listen up, all you political junkies who follow every twist and turn of every planning commission debate or talk back to the talking heads on television on public access TV.
Jeff Holtzinger was just like you, once.
About 18 months ago, his wife, Pamela, started finding him glued to the television set for city of Frederick planning commission hearings, muttering to himself. Go ahead, she told him: Run for mayor. It didn't matter that he had no experience in elected office, she told him. And -- because of a fight that erupted over the city's residency requirement and temporarily removed the provision -- it ultimately didn't even matter that he wasn't living within the city limits at the time.
Now, as of last Tuesday, Holtzinger -- a former city engineer conversant with water flow rates and traffic studies, a father of four who grew up in Frederick despite living just outside its borders and a lawyer who actually described himself as "your average meathead" in an interview -- is the Republican mayor-elect in a city of about 60,000 people.
After beating an experienced and well-financed opponent in the GOP primary, Holtzinger, 41, defeated former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young (D) by 358 votes Tuesday. Holtzinger received 4,740 votes, or about 52 percent, to Young's 4,382.
This may illustrate the gap in their experience: While Holtzinger was wandering the city's streets on foot -- arriving at a precinct to find he had lost it to Young by 100 or so votes and unable to reach anyone because his cell phone had died -- Young was already making his way to Holtzinger's election night reception to concede the race.
Using poll watchers, Young already knew that his comeback had failed. Holtzinger, meanwhile, was rummaging through his pickup for a battery-charging cord. His 13-year-old daughter left him an exasperated message: "You might want to call me back since you were in the race. We think Ron Young has conceded."
"I had no clue what was going on," Holtzinger, 41, recalled.
Clearly, Holtzinger is not afraid to poke fun at himself. But Tuesday's result suggests that voters believed the department head who oversaw the city's roads and water may be the best bet to deal with the strains brought on by a decade of rapid growth. As city engineer during the 2001-02 drought, he assumed responsibility for the technical details of the crisis.
"I think Jeff is the right person for this job at the right time," said Michael Cady (R), vice president of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners. Cady, who lives in the city, said voters opted for more than a new face. "I think they wanted a nuts-and-bolts kind of guy."
Even late in the week, though, a sense of shock lingered around town. "I'm quite surprised," said Robert "Boe" Walker, who owns Boe's Strings Inc. "Evidently, Jeff Holtzinger is surprised. I thought Ron would be a lock for it."
There are several theories for Holtzinger's victory upset. Some cited low turnout: 32 percent of the city's 29,033 voters cast ballots. Young's supporters, this argument goes, had thought him so likely to win they believed their votes weren't needed. Holtzinger's forces, fighting with underdog spirit, turned out in force.
Others said Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, whom Young defeated in the Democratic primary, worked against Young.
"Several people spoke to her about getting behind the ticket, about backing off with the anger, and there was no result," said Del. Galen R. Clagett, a Democrat who lives in Frederick. "She didn't support the ticket." And that, Clagett said, could have been the difference between a few hundred votes.
"I don't think there's any question that she made a strong plea to her core supporters to support the Republican candidate," said William "Bert" Anderson, an antiques dealer and Young's finance chairman.
Dougherty denied actively encouraging people to vote for Holtzinger. But she admitted that she did not work for Young, either. On some issues, she said, her views were closer to Holtzinger's.
"I think Jeff is an honest guy, and I think he's a smart guy. I think he's going to be challenged by the very demanding schedule, but I think he can handle it," she said. "I'll root for the city."
As others sifted for clues to the election, William Jefferson Holtzinger was assembling a transition team.
"I never had any design on being a politician," Holtzinger said after he entered the race. "What goes on bothers me so much, I said if I'm going to complain, I've got to be willing to do something."
The son of a nurse and a District-based lawyer who specialized in energy matters, Holtzinger is the fifth of six children. His parents moved to Frederick shortly before he was born. Although their family farm was on Clifton Road just beyond the city limits, he attended city schools.
He met the girl he would later marry when they were at Waverly Elementary School. In ninth grade, their first date was at the Great Frederick Fair, still an annual highlight. The couple married in January 1988.
At Governor Thomas Johnson High School, she was a cheerleader and he was captain of the football team. He also lifted weights, wrestled briefly, played baseball and ran track. His classmates named him "Homecoming King."
"He was an outstanding, high-character young kid. He was the kind of person who was a role model," former high school football coach Lynn Carr said. Carr, now supervisor of athletics for Frederick County schools, said Holtzinger had intense focus, whether he was listening to someone or working out. "He was the kind that you just knew would be successful."
As a student, Holtzinger took academic and vocational subjects, finding a good combination in civil engineering. "I liked equipment," he said. After graduating in 1982, he attended the College of William and Mary briefly before transferring to the University of Maryland. There, he also played football, but he didn't advance beyond third string. He graduated with a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering in 1987. In 1994, he obtained a law degree from Catholic University and joined the firm that includes his father and sister.
Pamela Holtzinger specializes in treating victims of sexual assault, a job that often calls her out at odd hours. She also works for a firm that assists with medical treatment in their homes or offices. The couple have four children: Caitlin, 15; Alexa, 13; Will, 10; and Kylee, 4.
Friends said they believe that Holtzinger will run things well and set a new tone in City Hall.
"If you can find dirt on Jeff, you let me know," said Montgomery County police officer Daniel Riddle, 40, a friend of Holtzinger's since elementary school. "Jeff's definitely not a person that treats anyone bad at any time."
Jim Wolfe, 41, a computer technician at Fort Detrick who worked on Holtzinger's campaign, said being a novice politician may have helped Holtzinger, because it allowed him to connect with ordinary people.
"There's absolutely nothing phony abut Jeff," Wolfe said. "He felt he had something to offer the city of Frederick, and obviously a lot of people thought it was good."