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Reflections on an era

June 03, 1997

The Steve Sager era ended quietly last night when Hagerstown's three-term mayor politely passed the gavel to the man who derailed his bid for a fourth term. There was no bitterness from Sager, who even told Mayor Bob Bruchey II he'd be available for consultation, "when you wish."

For his part, Bruchey took responsibility for what looked like a quarrel over the time of the swearing-in ceremony. Bruchey had sought a 6 p.m. swearing-in so he could see his son play baseball, but it was noted that the city charter sets 8 p.m. as the time for the transfer of power. After learning that, Bruchey said, he requested the change, and downplayed any reports of conflict.

Bruchey will need diplomatic skills aplenty when his political honeymoon is over, for several reasons. Citizens who backed him as a law-and-order mayor will expect him to deliver on that promise. Those who have invested money and sweat downtown will want reassurance Bruchey isn't going to turn his back on revitalization.

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And there will also be new pressure for cooperation from the county commissioners, some of whom saw Sager as an unreasonable foe of joint solutions to the county's water/sewer crisis.

To all of these groups, we say: Have some patience. Bruchey must first work out a relationship with the council and do his homework on issues ranging from tourism to the Maryland General Assembly. Give him at least month before besieging him on these issues.

A little "down time" probably wouldn't hurt if city residents used it to think about the past 12 years, which are remarkable mainly for what didn't happen. The problems that did arise were handled calmly and professionally, and the city government and its utilities appear to be in good financial shape. And focusing only on the stores that have left downtown ignores the state agencies (and jobs) that have moved in.

It didn't happen by accident, but through the application of time and energy by people who remain dedicated despite the fact that less than 30 percent of the voters cared enough about what they were doing to vote. Reflect on that for a few minutes, please.

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