Woke up this morning to the news that William Donald Schaefer, former Mayor of Baltimore and both Governor and Comptroller of Maryland, passed away at age 89. When we moved to Maryland in 1984, Mr. Schaefer’s reign as Mayor was nearing its end as he had his sights set on Annapolis. He was a master of leveraging state and federal funds to redevelop large areas of the city, including the Inner Harbor. One of his great urban renewal achievements was the One Dollar homes in the Otterbein section of downtown. Ambitious homesteaders were given abandoned homes to renovate. The neighborhood, sandwiched between the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, still thrives today.
I got to meet him a few times while in Annapolis and a number of our friends worked for him while he was Mayor. He was larger than life and demanded the most out of his staff. His most famous saying was “Do It Now!” and he got angry when people didn’t follow his orders. He was also known to write long letters both to supporters and to constituents who were not too fond of him. And he also appeared at more than one house, unannounced, to tell the resident that he did not agree with their point of view.
Our old Baltimore friend, C. Fraser Smith, wrote the definitive biography of this larger than life politician, “William Donald Schaefer: A Political Biography“. Although a very driven man and with no wife or family, he ended up a lonely man. His work was his life. And he was crushed when he lost his 2006 reelection bid for Maryland Comptroller. He knew his public life was over.
I know that not too many folks in Maine know of Mr. Schaefer, or perhaps care, but he was a man with great vision and worked hard to see that his vision was fulfilled. To see his legacy, one only needs to visit Baltimore where the Mayor transformed a dying industrial city into a vibrant one.