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Hagerstown is state's 'Capital for a Day'

May 09, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

· To see more photos of Thursday's 'Capital for a Day' activities, click here

As Capital for a Day, Hagerstown rolled out the red carpet for Gov. Martin O'Malley - and had his attention - on Thursday during a day filled with meetings, events, lobbying and hoopla.

After a morning meeting downtown with O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, about two dozen cabinet members spread through the city and county for tours and talks with local officials.

O'Malley, a Democrat, chatted with veterans at a downtown VFW post, shook hands with Maymart craft vendors in Public Square and visited a state job center.

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He talked to a crowd at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown and planted a memorial tree at Hagerstown City Park.

After lunch at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the governor concluded the day by meeting with correctional officers at Maryland Correctional Training Center, south of Hagerstown.

O'Malley called the full public agenda a chance to "connect with the people that we're serving."

His Capital for a Day program, in its second year, is similar to a program of his predecessor, Republican Robert Ehrlich.

Hagerstown is the first of eight municipalities to host state government this year.

"The best part so far has been the ability to be with the governor for a length of time to really hone in on what our issues are," Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said.

Bruchey and Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr spent several minutes at the cabinet meeting outlining the county's priorities.

Bruchey listed road projects, including the extension of Eastern Boulevard to Leitersburg Pike, that he said are important.

O'Malley and Brown heard about other community needs during a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce lunch at the museum.

On Wednesday, the chamber distributed an e-mail to dozens of people, suggesting several topics they should bring up during Capital for a Day, including funding for the university campus, the regional library and a Hagerstown Community College project.

"If you have an opportunity to talk with any of the policy folks tomorrow, please hit hard from this list," chamber President Brien J. Poffenberger wrote.

Others had impromptu chances to bend the governor's ear.

While O'Malley was at William D. Byron Post 1936 of the VFW on East Washington Street, Clyde Stair of Greencastle, Pa., urged him to help eliminate a "means test" evaluating veterans' ability to pay for health care.

Former Washington County Commissioner Ron Bowers talked to the governor in Public Square about how bad the house foreclosure problem has been.

William Howard Wachs hurried across West Washington Street toward O'Malley, calling out "Your honor!"

With his arms on O'Malley's shoulders, Wachs said, "The best thing I ever did in my entire life was vote you in," then grilled him about the high price of gas.

O'Malley talked to dozens of people downtown, often introducing himself with "Hi, I'm Martin."

During the cabinet meeting at the VFW post, O'Malley asked department heads to say where they planned to go during the day.

Richard E. Hall, the planning secretary, and T. Eloise Foster, the budget and management secretary, were going to talk to their city and county counterparts.

Other secretaries planned visits to HCC, Western Maryland Hospital Center, Western Maryland Children's Center and state offices their departments oversee.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, stuck with O'Malley for much of the day and praised him for his help in restoring funding for the USM-Hagerstown campus, which hosted a midday gathering of local officials.

"The excitement in this community is just incredible," Donoghue said at the cabinet meeting. "I've never seen it like this in my 20 years of public service."

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