At mid-afternoon Friday, the final working day of his tumultuous tenure as Prince George's County executive, Lawrence J. Hogan got on the public address system in the county administration building in Upper Marlboro and filled the hallways and offices with gracious praise and thanks for county employes.
"It was kind of touching at the end," said Richard Castaldi, a newly elected Democratic county councilman, who like other listeners thought that the characteristically feisty Hogan sounded a bit "teary-eyed," at least nostalgic, and even humble in his goodbye.
"I thought it was a nice thing to do," said Castaldi, who was in a second-floor conference room attending an orientation session for new and reelected council members when Hogan came on the air.
But there were a few in the room who pooh-poohed the county executive even in the end, unable to resist aiming a final wisecrack or snicker at Hogan, the former FBI agent and three-term Republican congressman who thrived on playing the tough guy.
In the four years since he took the county executive's job away from Democrat Winfield M. Kelly Jr., Hogan's confrontational style exasperated aides, rankled enemies and delighted the media.
Tomorrow, a month after he was soundly defeated in his bid to unseat Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), a decidedly quieter Hogan surrenders his job as county executive.
"I didn't want four more years," Hogan said during an interview last week in his office, where the polished wood walls had been stripped bare except for a single, black-and-white portrait of Prince George of Denmark, for whom the county is named. "I don't have any plans to run for office again, but who knows?"
During the last year, Hogan seemed to lose interest in the executive's job and leave the running of the county to others while he concentrated on running for the Senate.
The relative calm in Upper Marlboro was in sharp contrast to the raucous early years of his administration. In just two weeks in 1980, there was an angry 11-day strike by 1,500 county employes -- the first in county history -- complete with a prisoners' riot at the county jail, all culminating 18 months of clashes with Hogan. Hogan stood tough, firing 121 jail guards, and the employes went back to work without a contract settlement. That same month, Hogan, citing his personal moral beliefs, banned elective abortions at the county hospitals, but was told by the courts that he had exceeded his authority.
A year earlier, the County Council rejected Hogan's choice for police chief, which he had described then as the "most important" decision of his tenure, after rank-and-file police and black activists said the nominee did not have the sensitivity needed for the job in a county that is 37 percent black. Hogan subsequently appointed his press aide, John E. McHale, a former FBI official, to the job, where McHale remains today. "McHale probably is a better chief than the one that was rejected," Hogan says now.
Later, Hogan appointed a black deputy police chief to handle personnel and recruitment and has named blacks to various county positions, but some say a stonger effort could have been made to put blacks into policy jobs. "I think he did what he had to do because the minority community would stand for no less," said Josie A. Bass, the president of the Prince George's branch of the NAACP.
The county executive's job "wasn't something I was really burning to do," said Hogan, who made the same comment about the Senate seat after he lost the Nov. 2 election. Hogan, 54, a lawyer who says that he now plans to work as a part-time consultant for a federal agency, says the county executive's job was a way for him to "demonstrate my management ability." His legacy is a mixture of accomplishment and bitter feelings generated by a man who won't walk away from a fight.
"I believe he has made some hard decisions with regard to economies that are difficult," said incoming County Executive Parris Glendening, a college professor and two-term Democratic councilman whose mild manner stands in sharp contrast to Hogan's combative nature.
"He's done some significant things. But in other areas, his confrontation style has tended to divide an awful lot of people in the county. It was more of a divide and conquer, rather than 'we are in this together'," Glendening said.
Like Glendening, Gerard T. McDonough, who chaired the all-Democratic council this year, and other political rivals concede that Hogan has provided a supportive atmosphere for economic development, although they insist that the policies were those of his Democratic predecessor Kelly.
"What I disagree with and what I think was wrong was he adopted the typical Republican antagonistic stance toward the public employe, constantly criticizing the very institution of which he's the leader. While you can get away with crowing about efficiencies and streamlining, you've demoralized the institution," said McDonough, who himself was defeated in the September primary.
Throughout the years, there were charges that Hogan put his political friends into high county positions, a move that some attribute to Hogan's desire to have loyalists at his side. He hired his son Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. to be his righthand man and then was accused of retaliating against county employes who interfered with Larry Jr.'s abortive run for Congress in a special election two years ago.
There were constant battles over appointments between the Republican executive and the Democratic council, which rejected a dozen Hogan choices. Yet despite all of that very public tussling, a poll after his first 11 months in office showed that Hogan's popularity with county voters was as strong as ever: 63 percent thought he was doing a good or a very good job.
Finally, in what Hogan now characterizes as the most significant defeat of his administration, the council rejected his proposal to lease the three county hospitals to a private, profit-making corporation -- a move some feared would jeopardize service for the poor. Over Hogan's objections, the council opted to set up a nonprofit corporation to operate the hospitals. Hogan called the idea "a disaster," but signed legislation implementing it last summer.
The financial tone for the Hogan administration was set by the voters, with Hogan's strong support, in 1978 when they approved TRIM (Tax Reform in Maryland), an amendment to the county charter that prohibited the county from collecting more property tax in succeeding years than the $143 million it took in for fiscal year 1979. The measure was one of the most restrictive of its kind in the nation, and, as was his style, Hogan approached that mandate with sheer determination to tighten up the county government and reduce costs.
In a report to the council last week on his four-year term, Hogan pointed out that the property tax rate was reduced 20 percent during his administration, from $3.31 per $100 of assessed value to $2.63. For two years, Hogan said, the rate was below the maximum allowed by TRIM (meaning that less than $143 million was generated through the property tax during those years) although the $2.63 is now at the TRIM ceiling. And Hogan said the growth rate of the county budget under his administration was 40 percent lower than it was under Democrat Kelly, and there are now 2,400 fewer public employes.
Such belt-tightening did not come without fights, the meanest of which was in the area of education, where Hogan wrote in his report that he was "often savagely criticized" for cutting $37 million out of Superintendent Edward J. Feeney's budget request last year. The council restored $5.3 million, to which the school system, which has line-item control of its budget, responded with layoff notices to 827 employes, including 507 teachers.
Hogan, in last week's interview, said the school board "has had so much rhetoric, but the fact remains that they lost 22,000 students and their budget increased 32 percent." For the teachers, however, there is no forgiving Hogan.
"No human being is without his or her merits, but I do feel that Larry Hogan viciously attacked the school system, was determined to weaken it," said John Carroll Sisson, the president of the Prince George's Education Association, the largest teachers union. "I think basically he's an elitist and does not believe in equal opportunity through public education.
"Considering his attitude toward public education, I think it's in the best interest of the county that he's finding employment elsewhere."
Some aides closest to Hogan concede that, while his feisty, defensive style was a failing, he deserves credit for living within TRIM.
"On that score he deserves high marks," said one knowledgeable official, who said that Glendening will have an even tougher job looking for money and ways to make cuts.
Asked if he had any suggestions for his successor, with whom he has had some conflicts in the past, Hogan said, "I don't think he needs advice from me." When asked about his own experience, Hogan reached back to a poem he wrote in 1972 called "Don't Look Back." Preserved in fine black ink on beige construction paper, it reads in part: The past was wonderful The past was terrible But the past is past Don't look back."