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Cancer survivor McCarthy seeking comptroller's post

November 02, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Two years after a bout with breast cancer, Anne McCarthy made a decision her family felt wasn't too wise - she resigned her job as the dean of the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore and joined the race for the Maryland comptroller's office.

Her mother, Michaeleen Kimmey, said her daughter had always been brilliant and hard-working. But since her cancer, Kimmey said McCarthy has become "so unbelievably optimistic."

"She told me, 'Mom, I really think I can make a difference,'" Kimmey said.

But while having a heartwarming story is one thing, is McCarthy qualified to oversee a state budget that is now measured in billions of dollars?

McCarthy said that as dean of the Merrick School of Business for four years, she handled a budget of more than $10 million - and learned a lot about state procedures as well.

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"I understand the state government, I understand state procurement rules and state employee policies," she said.

Now 48, she has a B.A. in economics from Georgetown University, an M.B.A. in accounting from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in strategic management from Purdue University.

"Beyond that, I have experience in running organizations," she said.

Back in the early 1980s, she had a business renovating historic properties into space for small businesses. After that, she set up a center for entrepreneurship and small business development.

Although McCarthy said she believes that the comptroller should essentially be a nonpartisan position whose "primary goal should be acting as a steward for the taxpayers," she says her philosophy would be closer in tune with Gov. Robert Ehrlich than his opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"I believe it would be very bad for the state if my opponent (Del. Peter Franchot) were elected," she said.

The last time Democrats had such control, under Gov. Parris Glendening, she said "Glendening got us into $7 billion in debt."

With Democrat Franchot in the comptroller's job, McCarthy said, "there would be no checks and balances" on the spending tendencies of a Democratic General Assembly and governor.

McCarthy said that following the primary, Franchot said he would be a fiscal conservative, though his record shows that he has voted for billions in new taxes.

"In bill after bill, the costs just got passed along to the taxpayers," she said.

Asked how she would change the comptroller's office if elected, McCarthy said she didn't see herself cleaning house.

"I think it's a well-run office. I had a tax question a couple of years ago. I talked to an employee who was courteous and professional. They answered and resolved my issue within 24 hours," she said.

Instead of creating a team of outside advisers, as Franchot proposes, McCarthy said she would first ask employees, "because they know the difficulties they face."

Incumbent Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has done a good job of automating the office, McCarthy said, but new computer software is needed to make it easier to "drill down for reports."

She would do two other things, she said, including:

1. Put together a task force on all state tax policies. Each tax in Maryland has always been considered as a stand-alone item, she said, when it makes more sense to look at what the best mix of taxes is.

2. Look at the state pension fund, which she said is now underfunded. Either the fund's investments must yield more or the legislature must add more money to it, she said.

McCarthy says she's confident she can do all that because she is a good manager who can build a team that works well together.

"I think that even before my cancer, I put a high value on having a team around me. We all loved to come to work," she said.

She also feels she is a good mentor, but not necessarily the kind of mentor most people think of.

"I am a different kind of mentor. I tell people that "Life is too short and don't do anything you don't want to do,'" she said.

Two years after facing her own mortality, McCarthy has decided she would like to be Maryland's top financial watchdog. I only hope her story isn't emerging so late in the election cycle that the voters don't know that they have a choice in this race.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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