The secret's out that Bruchey knows his stuff

March 07, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

As Bob Bruchey sat in the City Council audience last week listening to council members laboriously drone on and on and on about a rezoning issue as if it were some sort of end-of-life decision, he would have been excused for having a flicker of doubt.

I thought I could read it in the eyes of his wife, Susan: "Bob. Sweetie. You want to be mayor again - why?"

As my colleague Andy Schotz pointed out, the next day's headline, "Bruchey II; The Return," sounded like the title of a horror flick. And with this council, it might very well be. Although if he pulls it off, I think the Bruchey movie should sound a little more heroic, like "The Mayorinator."

So the council picked Bruchey. Bet you didn't see that coming. The only confusion was over why the council bothered to go on this month-long, faux-selection-process bender to make it appear that anyone this side of the Scoreboard Cowboy had a legitimate shot.


No wonder they held the "interviews" of the four "finalists" in secret. What was there to ask?

"Good evening Ms. Moller, and welcome to the Hagerstown City Council interview process. Our first question for you is, How do you think Bob Bruchey will do as mayor?"

And when Bruchey himself took the stand: "So, Mr. Bruchey. Bob. Um. What's the golf handicap down to these days? Hey, that's great. How 'bout that local sports team? Love your suit."

I mean, one of the finalists actually had a long list of impressive credentials. I don't know what he was doing there. Probably took a wrong turn at "What do you mean, mayor of Hagerstown? I wanted to be a systems analyst."

But it wasn't as if he had a shot. Pitt the Elder wouldn't have had a shot. Fred Kramer circa 1994 was a less predictable choice than Bruchey. Having Bruchey in your office pool was like having Connecticut AND Duke (joke written pre-Carolina game).

The only thing, and I mean the only thing, that made me think the council might not pick Bruchey was that it was the smart thing to do. Bob Bruchey is the only Republican in the City of Hagerstown who can do this job. Nay, maybe the only human being in the City of Hagerstown, or maybe in the world, who can do this job.

Yes, I know, this whole Top Secret interview process was ridiculous. Or maybe not. Let's see if we can't have the entire City Hall election held in secret next time around. No public statements of any kind. Candidates could only make campaign promises in executive session, where no one could hear them. I'd be up for that.

But the important part of the process they got right. In one quick vote, the mayor and council goes from circus act to borderline competent. Bruchey has vision, but he can speak the language of the folks who are sitting on the stoop eating Cheez Doodles. In other words, he not only sees that some changes are for the better, he can communicate why.

Representing a broad array of Washington County personalities can be a challenge, but Bruchey seems able to cross more socioeconomic lines than most.

He's got a pro-business outlook on downtown development but street cred with labor. He's not going to sell out to any developer, but neither is he going to slam the door in any developer's face. Doesn't matter if you crossed swords with him yesterday, if you have the best deal today, he's all ears. And Bruchey is not going to act like he's better and smarter than everyone else. So obviously, there's only one clear loser in this whole deal.


Face it, these last eight months have been a hogfest for me and I've gotten spoiled.

Heck, I don't even know if I can count on Penny anymore. Without former Mayor Dick Trump there to push her buttons, how many freakouts will she have left in the tank? Even her last little blast at Trump on Tuesday ("he should be a man and admit that his departure wasn't the council's fault") seemed to have a "going through the motions" quality to it that was sorely lacking in the normal adrenaline.

Maybe I'm being too hasty in my judgment. Maybe they will be able to salvage a little rancor and discord out of what is otherwise a positive development. But if they do have to act in poor taste to start making rational decisions, I hope they keep with tradition and at least have the good sense to do so in secret.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at

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