ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer has a message for the bureaucrats, the planners, the M.B.A.-types who overanalyze and study and make things too complicated.

The message is: READ MY LIPS.

He scrawls it on his easel at Cabinet meetings. He loves the way it sounds.

He explains:

"I say, 'Paint that wall red.' They say, 'Okay, but first we better make sure it's structurally sound.' Then, 'Well, we might as well check the ceiling and the floor while we're at it.' Then, 'We should probably look at the plumbing.' Then, 'I wonder what's behind that wall?' "


"Paint the wall!' Schaefer says, exasperated by his own hypothetical example. "Read my lips!"

The problem is that people try to read his mind instead, he says. There's no need to. Whatever Schaefer is thinking, he usually says, unless he is mad and not talking at all.

It's been a year now since he moved from the mayor's office in Baltimore to the second floor of Maryland's colonial State House, and at least one thing should be clear to all: What he says is what he wants. When he wants it is now.

His autocratic style is fueled by impatience. Admirers call him decisive, critics say he is impulsive. He commands the spotlight, and he'll be a clown to capture the public's attention, or a scowling terror to get his own way.

All he wants is everything. He says as much himself.

Despite the many successes of his first year, he is more likely to dwell on the infrequent setbacks. The slightest criticism will make his blood boil, but he feels no compulsion to curb his own sharp tongue.

He hates losing. He will turn off the television in the final minutes of a close football game, just to spare himself the agony if his team goes down to defeat.

"If you don't understand him, you would think he is absolutely crazy," says Schaefer's former Department of Transportation secretary William K. Hellmann, a resolute admirer.

Critics said that trying to transfer his dictatorial style from a poor, aging city with an image problem to a wealthy, diverse and complicated state would be his undoing. But those waiting for him to fail are still waiting.

Above all else, he has created motion. Bureaucrats are rattled, legislators are exhausted, local officials are ready to canonize him.

And those who opposed him in the past year are hunkering down for the future.

"It's like being in the country and you wake up and the sun is shining," says Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. "And then you realize you have one very long, tough row to hoe.

"That's life with William Donald Schaefer."

In the next breath, Miller contradicts himself: "I'm very proud to be president of the Senate while he is governor. He makes things happen. He doesn't take the safe course."

Schaefer seems to inspire a similar ambivalence in many who deal closely with him, especially those in the General Assembly. They applaud his game plan, but worry about being left on the sidelines.

"He runs government by fiat, and democracy by its very definition is supposed to be government by discussion," Miller says. "The good news about the way he runs government is that it's efficient; the bad news is that it's not democracy."A New Kind of Leader

Instead, it's government by personality.

On the day before his inauguration, Schaefer hopped into a crate marked "Baltimore's Gift to Maryland," was lifted by crane onto a specially outfitted ship and emerged in a fake admiral's uniform.

It was typical Schaefer gimmickry, and came at the end of a massive parade at which the citizenry offered its carefully orchestrated gratitude. But there was a message, too, his aides say. It was that a different kind of chief executive was on the way.

Schaefer is famous for his events -- his jump into the seal pool at the National Aquarium he built in Baltimore left an indelible impression -- and he and his aides say the extravaganzas illustrate a key to Schaefer's outlook. Government has to do more than take care of people, Schaefer says continually. It has to let people know -- and always remind them -- that they are being taken care of.

"Don't you get it yet?" he recently lectured one member of his Cabinet. "It doesn't count unless you tell somebody."

Schaefer mastered the lesson in Baltimore, and he quickly brought the same tactics to state government.

One of the first things Schaefer told state transportation officials was that he didn't want any summer traffic jams on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The bureaucrats panicked, Hellmann remembers. Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Bay Bridge was as inevitable as mosquitoes and humidity.

But Hellmann had seen the technique before. Schaefer just wanted action. Thus the "Reach the Beach" campaign was born, with news conferences and flashing roadside signs and warnings to motorists to avoid the bridge during peak hours. Road improvements under way when Schaefer was elected were completed and announced with a flourish.

Of course, there were still traffic jams, but letters to the editor -- an important barometer for Schaefer -- were favorable.

Under the same theory, Schaefer told Cabinet secretaries and department heads when he took office that all good news about state government -- new projects, money for local sewers, bright economic changes -- would come from him.

If there is a hat and a photo opportunity involved, all the better.

He plopped on a railroad conductor's hat to announce his Baltimore-area light rail proposal. There was an antique helmet for Maryland Day, a bowler and T-shirt for the "Maryland, You Are Beautiful" campaign, a white coat and push-broom for the "Let Maryland Pride Sweep the State" commercials.

When House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell handed Schaefer a pair of novelty glasses just before the governor's State of the State address to the legislature last month, some of Schaefer's aides cringed. They knew he couldn't resist.

The result was front-page photos across the state of a rather odd-looking governor. Schaefer was unfazed. "I do know there are some people who think a little more dignity might be nice," he says. "{But} the minute it happens, I'm no longer me."

"He's thought of in a totally unique and different realm," says Washington pollster Harrison Hickman, who worked for Schaefer in the 1986 campaign. "People know he's not one of these blown-dry politicians. He is up front with his thoughts and emotions."

He does not worry about other people's expectations.

He still refuses to move into the governor's mansion, although the state Constitution requires it, and most days makes the 45-minute drive from the West Baltimore neighborhood where he grew up. At 66, he has lived for more than 50 years in the little row house he shared with his mother until she died in 1984. He likes to think of himself as an "Edgewood Street kind of guy," friends say, who on weekends drives a 13-year-old Pontiac that has only 64,000 miles on it and stalls in heavy rain.

He's been known to intentionally mispronounce Perrier rather than risk being labeled a sophisticate.

"He really doesn't want to get away from his beginnings," says Baltimore Judge Mary Arabian, his longtime friend and former law partner.

At the same time, he wants to spend more than $1 million in public and private money to renovate the mansion he doesn't live in. His parties and events are decorated to excess, guests dine with the new silverware engraved with his name, and the floral centerpieces receive his inspection.

Schaefer says that he wants things to be "nice" on those rare occasions when the public actually visits the monuments of state government. He thought the State House looked dirty when he arrived, so maintenance crews began waxing the floors with such frequency that legislators slipped on them. A visit to the governor's mansion, he says, "should be an elegant evening that people will remember."

For his part, Schaefer says he is happier at a church spaghetti supper, or better yet, during the times he and his longtime friend, Hilda Mae Snoops, slip away to "one of my favorite places," their vacation trailers near Ocean City.

In the summer, he fishes in his little boat. In the winter, they browse through the shops. They eat at the English Diner and, at night, take in a movie.

Schaefer tries to pay the bill before Snoops embarrasses him by asking for the senior citizen discount. Dealing With Others

If at times he seems the kindly uncle, consider this scene:

Schaefer enters the grand reception room on the second floor of the State House for a routine news conference. He goes through his customary greeting with the dean of the Capitol press corps, once again telling the reporter that he is the only one who is fair.

Schaefer moves to the next reporter, who has recently written some stories critical of his administration. "I hate your guts," he says.

Reporters are among the few people Schaefer regularly comes into contact with who question his actions. He responds in kind. Reading the morning paper makes him "puke," he once said, and a favorite tactic is to address male reporters as "girls," thus annoying both the men and women of the media.

But they are not the only ones to hear from him. His political opponents are regularly roasted. Bureaucrats often feel the heat of his temper and even some of his loyal and longtime assistants are accustomed to being yelled at about once a day.

Because of his temper, Schaefer says he has imposed upon himself a 24-hour cooling-off period before mailing the stinging letters he writes when he is angry. There is no such check on his tongue.

Many politicians were astounded when Schaefer refused to offer the obligatory congratulations to Kurt L. Schmoke, his longtime political rival, when Schmoke won the Democratic nomination for mayor of Baltimore last fall. Although Schmoke supported Schaefer's opponent in the gubernatorial race, such remarks are a staple to most politicians; Schaefer seemed hardly able to speak Schmoke's name.

Those and similar incidents have earned Schaefer a reputation as a vengeful and vindictive man, so used to getting his own way that he sees disagreements as insults and those responsible for them as candidates for the enemies list.

Schaefer denies the charge -- and then indicates it is not such a bad image.

"I'm not some goddamn cream puff, you know," he says.

Unlike most other politicians, Schaefer "wears his heart on his sleeve," says Del. Nancy Kopp (D-Montgomery). A disagreement "is seen as a much more personal action. Everything is ratcheted up to a higher emotional pitch," she says.

Schaefer's impulsiveness often means a mess for someone else to clean up. Last summer, he pushed through a hastily conceived clause in the state's contract with legal aid lawyers that would deny them state funds if they sued the state on behalf of a client. He hadn't even mentioned the idea to his staff.

The prohibition would have made Maryland the first state in the nation to so restrict legal aid. It set off an uproar that officials calmed only by working behind the scenes to restore the original agreement.

Schaefer's disdain for government studies often causes him problems with the more deliberate legislature. His current proposal for a $290 million light rail system linking Baltimore with Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, for example, is in trouble partly because a plan for the rest of the state is nonexistent.

Schaefer says that is unimportant. Start the project, he says, and the other counties will be taken care of later. "All I hear {from legislators} is 'Where's my line?' " Schaefer says. "If you don't get the first line, {there} won't {be a} second line."

Legislators who have dealt with Schaefer privately say he is unlike anyone they are used to.

Kopp, who like Miller supported Schaefer's campaign, recalls a meeting last session to work out a compromise on a tough issue. Instead, she said, Schaefer was in a foul mood and sat in "utter silence." She decided not to say anything either. And so they sat.

Friends and aides say they have no real explanation for Schaefer's often bitter comments or general grouchiness. Maybe it is because he is so impatient, they say, or moody.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Edgar Silver says that Schaefer often feels bad about the way he acts. "He wouldn't harm a soul," says Silver, a longtime friend. "Later on, he'll say he's sorry. Sometimes he tells other people to carry the message."

"He sometimes does use his temper to get things done," Hellmann says. "A certain amount of it is calculated."

Because Schaefer never married and has no family, he invests more of himself into his work, Hellmann says.

"When you criticize what he wants to do, it's like criticizing his family or criticizing his kids," Hellmann says. "Because that's his life."Eagles and Turkeys

Schaefer is often no easier on those who work for him. By his own admission he is a demanding and dictatorial boss, who hands out "eagles" and "turkeys" to cabinet secretaries and department heads, depending on their performance.

Much of Schaefer's difficulty with the legislature has been blamed on his administrative staff, some of whom have been at Schaefer's side for years. They are so loyal and adoring that reporters during the campaign labeled them the "Kool-Aid Kids." It's a derogatory reference to cult leader Jim Jones' followers, who obeyed his command to drink poisoned Kool-Aid, but Schaefer's staffers even use the term themselves.

They guard access to the governor and, legislators believe, are afraid to tell him when he is making a bad decision. Some think they have made the executive branch too insulated.

On the other hand, some legislators and lobbyists say state government is more active and energized under Schaefer. "The bureaucrats are scared to death of him," says Del. Timothy F. Maloney (D-Prince George's).

Despite Schaefer's reputation, those who work for him say he gives them great freedom.

"I have worked for other governors," says Juvenile Services Administration Director Linda D'Amario Rossi, one of the few Schaefer appointees selected after a national search. "And I have never felt so reassured about trying to be creative."

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Torrey Brown, who was appointed by former governor Harry Hughes and retained by Schaefer, said that once Schaefer has been convinced of a program or proposal, the secretary will be backed to the hilt. "Just do your job," Brown quotes Schaefer as saying. "Let me do the politics."

"He encourages you to do something daring," says J. Randall Evans, secretary of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "With him, you get a sense of accomplishment."

The often-heard complaint about Schaefer is that he appoints people he is comfortable with, rather than searching for the best person for the job. And for all his demands and threats, he admits that he doesn't like to fire people.

Department of Licensing and Regulation Secretary William A. Fogle Jr. has recently been the subject of a series of embarrassing articles in the Baltimore Sun that indicate at least a potential conflict of interest with a lobbyist with whom he has a personal relationship. But Schaefer has not had a public word of criticism for Fogle.

"When I'm convinced they {his subordinates} are doing wrong -- when I'm convinced -- they're gone," Schaefer says.

For all of Schaefer's impatience and bluster, those who work for him say that his praise is a reward worth the long hours and trouble.

Hellmann remembers the day of the dedication of the Fort McHenry Tunnel, a project he headed in Baltimore. Schaefer naturally made it an event, and praised Hellmann to the skies. Hellmann grins thinking back on it.

"My parents were there," Hellmann says. And when Schaefer finished speaking, Hellmann was in tears. Happiest Memory

In a year-end interview with a group of reporters, Schaefer was asked if he had regrets about the things he has given up for a life in politics.

"Yeah," he said. But he wouldn't say what they were.

"I'll cite you an example of a happy occasion," Schaefer said instead. "I went to Gaithersburg and opened a bridge. I had the nicest time that I had in the entire year I was here.

"It was a little neighborhood ceremony. They had the local high school band. They had the local priest and the bishop . . . . They had a whole bunch of neighbors around. They had put up balloons.

"I thought I was in heaven," Schaefer says. "I honestly thought I was in heaven."


"Felt neighborhood. Felt close to the people," he said. "They didn't know me, but they made me feel good. They made me feel welcome."