I called Barry today to discuss his contemporary; they were mayors together from 1979 until 1987. Schaefer’s final two terms overlapped with Barry’s first two.
”He was a bright guy,” Barry said. “People just misunderstood him a lot.”
Like many, many others, Barry recognized Schaefer’s transformation of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor into a retail and entertainment destination as his most lasting achievement. But he recalled that it was also a direct inspiration for one of his own signature development initiatives. Barry said he met with Schaefer and James Rouse, the developer of Harborplace, early in his mayoralty to talk about waterfront development opportunities. The District had little authority over its waterfront at that point, with the federal government in firm control of most shoreline. But, partnering with developer Herb Miller, Barry was able to remake a portion of the old Georgetown docks into Washington Harbour — a retail-and-office project smaller than Harborplace but a big win for the city at the time.
”I got that idea mostly ... from our discussions with Schaefer,” Barry said.
Barry shared another memory involving Schaefer, from his time out of public office. About a decade ago, Barry was working as bond rainmaker for the M.R. Beal investment house. He approached then-State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon about drumming up some Maryland state business, which would have to pass through the state’s Board of Public Works, which then Comptroller Schaefer sat on.
“He said, ‘If your company is not located in Maryland, not only am I going to have a problem, but Don Schaefer is going to have a problem with it.’ He prided himself on keeping as much money inside Maryland as possible,” Barry said. “Contrary to what we do in the District.”
Barry and Schaefer have something else in common, of course — both found it extremely difficult to walk away from politics. Barry ran in 2004 for the D.C. Council, six years after leaving the mayoralty. Schaefer ran for comptroller in 1998, three years after leaving Government House.
”He was indefatigable. Whatever age he was, he was still going,” Barry said. “He and I both see public service as our ministry.”