In Chesapeake Country, Political Surprises
A lot is new in Calvert County, including since the 1980s more than half the people who live in the narrow peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River. But Calvert politics has deep roots, and its political leaders have long lives and enormous power. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has represented Calvert for 15 of his 27 years in Congress. Mike Miller has represented Calvert in the state Senate for 14 years also as the Senate’s (now longest presiding) president. Gerald Donovan has led Chesapeake Beach as its mayor for 25 years after seven years on the town council.
In that establishment, 2008 is the year for change.
But not the change we expected.
For over a year, we’ve been preparing to say good-bye to Mike Miller, who gave us early warnings of his intention to retire instead of standing for reelection in 2010, when he’ll be 67.
This month, Miller announced he’s changed his mind. Miller’s un-retirement is a testament to an old-school pol of unusual skills and demeanor.
After he won re-election last time, he said he’d had enough of the viciousness in politics. Plus, he’d been through a General Assembly session in which Democrats locked horns constantly with a Republican governor, Robert Ehrlich.
When he declared recently his change of mind in an Annapolis building that bears his name some things became clear.
Miller’s gene for politics was still expressing itself. Could it be that Miller was watching the soon-to-be 72-year-old John McCain run for president?
It’s been said that no one came forth in the Senate for Miller to anoint as his successor. Could it be that would-be replacements realized that Miller’s fires still burned so hot they risked getting singed?
Instead, it’s Gerald Donovan to whom we’ll be making our farewells. Shock ripples are still spreading from Donovan’s June 12 announcement to the town council that he was serving his last term.
Novelty was part of his reason, Donovan said.
“The town has so many wonderful people, lots of new people and new enthusiasm, people who know how to get things done,” he told Bay Weekly. The town’s population has tripled to over 3,500 since Donovan was elected.
Plus, he said, the mayor’s job could use “a little new energy.”
Not that Gerald Donovan has ever lacked energy. He spent much of it developing his hometown. Revitalization achieved with the team of town council, staffers and volunteers rises from the century-old resort town’s sewers and water to its streetscape to its permanent and seasonal attractions.
Yet the influx of people, whose “diversity” he counts as a town advantage, may be in the background of his decision to leave a winner. Last mayoral election, Donovan had to race to win his seat, against a newcomer who was a political unknown.
Whatever novelty the future brings, he’ll see it. His family business, Rod ’n’ Reel, sits at the center of town and is one of its biggest attractions.