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Dougherty says business skills will serve her well

October 06, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Jennifer P. Dougherty wanted to buy a restaurant when she graduated from college.

Her father urged her to get business experience first, which she did.

Now, after some seasoning as a local politician - one term as mayor of Frederick, Md. - the restaurateur is running for Congress. She said she considers the economy, energy, health care and leadership to be main issues.

Dougherty also is selling Jennifer's Restaurant, the Frederick business she has owned for about 21 years.

"I liken it to sending a child off to college," she said.

Dougherty - Frederick's mayor from 2002 to 2006 - is challenging eight-term incumbent Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican.

Libertarian Gary W. Hoover Sr. also is in the race.

She said she thinks her experience in business and government gives her a good understanding of how money should be spent.

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Dougherty, 47, a Democrat, is single and lives in Frederick.

She grew up in northwest Washington, D.C., attending Blessed Sacrament School through eighth grade and Georgetown Visitation School for high school.

In 1983, she earned a bachelor's degree in history from Mount St. Mary's College, as it was known then.

She said she thought about going to law school.

But she also decided during college that she wanted to own a business. She saw a restaurant for sale, but listened to her father's advice to wait.

Dougherty said she became a cook at Houlihan's, a chain restaurant, in Chevy Chase, Md. She later took a job at a D.C.-area chain called American Cafe, working her way up to area general manager.

After a summer of helping to open another restaurant in Annapolis, in 1987, Dougherty saw a newspaper classified ad and bought the restaurant that's now known as Jennifer's.

From 1999 to 2006, she also ran a specialty store in Frederick called Dougherty's Irish Shop.

Dougherty said having a restaurant where people sit, eat and chat helped her learn what's on people's minds, a benefit when holding public office.

She ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Frederick in 1993 and Frederick County commissioner in 1994.

Dougherty said she ran for mayor in 2001 for the same reasons she ran in 1993: the need for progress on the Carroll Creek development project and more open government decision-making.

After a tight Democratic primary victory, she won the general election more handily, unseating incumbent Republican James S. Grimes to become the city's first female mayor.

Dougherty said the Carroll Creek project progressed during her term. Also, a rocky environment within the city police department stabilized and new neighborhood advisory councils created better communication among the public and government officials.

However, her four-year term was marked by sharp battles between her and city council members.

When she ran for re-election in 2005, she lost in a Democratic primary.

Dougherty said she thinks voters were protesting the constant fighting when they kept her and three others from returning to office.

She said the lesson was to not be so "in your face" during disputes. "Not every battle has to be World War III," she said.

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