ANNAPOLIS - The last three months have been anything but smooth for newly elected Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides.
The Republican incumbent has had clashes with local unions. He wrote an explicit letter to a city official and received criticism for firing three African-American employees.
City leaders are taking notice.
Despite some public setbacks, officials are hoping Pantelides' ‘stumbling blocks’ will disappear as he becomes more acclimated to his role as mayor of the state capital.
“It hasn’t been a smooth transition,” said Eugene Peterson, the city's former constituent services specialist. ”In Annapolis, you have to govern through a consensus. It’s different when you’re actually in the seat.”
Since December, when he took office after after beating Democratic incumbent Josh Cohen by 59 votes , many of Pantelides' decisions have been met with criticism. This includes his removal of six city hall employees, including Peterson, the failure to appoint a permanent city attorney and an apparent refusal to meet with city leaders.
Carl Snowden, a city activist said members of the Caucious of African American Leaders are still waiting to have a sitdown with the mayor.
“It hasn’t happened it, but we hear it could be in the works,” Snowden said. “The meeting is needed to understand all aspects of the city.”
Multiple calls and emails to Pantelides were not returned.
Dan Nataf, a professor of political science at Anne Arundel Community College and director of its Center for the Study of Local Issues, cautioned against rushing to judge Pantelides’ administration.
“He just hasn’t been in long enough,” said Nataf, who studies Anne Arundel and Annapolis politics.
The main challenge Pantelides, 30, faces, Nataf said, is that he never held a position within the city government before.
“He was never an alderman,” he said. “So he’s also introducing himself to the process, and I guess he’s made some friends and enemies along the way.”
To make headway, Pantelides needs to find something all the aldermen can work on together, be it reducing crime or fixing problems in public housing in the city. He has r eached out to the public early in his administration by offering open houses with the public.
“Something that is a point of commonality,” Nataf said.
Annapolis Alderman Ross Arnett said Pantelides’ learning curve is steep. But it’s like that for every mayor, Arnett said.
“You’re coming into a really tough situation,” said Arnett, an Eastport Democrat who has served on the City Council since 2007. “Frankly, I wonder why people even want the job.”
Between crafting a budget, managing city operations and building relationships with council members and the community, it almost takes the whole four years to figure it out, Arnett said.
Arnett was the recipient of a nasty note from Pantelides at Monday’s City Council meeting, after former Alderwoman Classie Hoyle pressed the mayor on the firing of three African-American employees since the beginning of his term.
Arnett asked Hoyle to provide more details, according to multiple media reports. A frustrated Pantelides passed Arnett a note that read, “Thanks for (expletive) me.”
Arnett declined to discuss the note.
“That’s between the mayor and I,” he said, adding the two have a good relationship.
“He’s very affable and he’s dedicated to the job,” Arnett said.
Peterson said Pantelides should think about the letter he wrote and make a formal apology at the next City Council meeting.
“He needs to get up there and say he made a mistake and that it will never happen again,” Peterson said. “From there we can move on and work to better the city.”
Pantelides also drew criticism from Annapolis union officials, who disagreed with his proposed budget proposal that included 13 layoffs, keeping 20 positions vacant and requiring furloughs of city employees.
“We were in negotiations with the city for 15 months,” said Carroll Spriggs, presidents of the Annapolis Firefighters Union. “Everyone made concessions. Furloughs were not part of the deal.”
Spriggs said he was blindsided by the proposal and has attempted to coordinate a personal meeting with Pantelides.
“He never got back to me,” he said. “I ended up having to go to city hall and sign up for a public meeting.”
Spriggs called the gesture unacceptable. He said his union refuses to come back to the bargaining table until the furlough issue is addressed.
Public perception for the new mayor wasn’t helped Thursday, when his cousin, Savvas Andre Pantelides,24, of Annapolis was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Peterson said that despite the struggles, he hopes Pantelides learns from his mistakes and works to bring the city together.
“It’s important to create one Annapolis, not two,” he said. “By working together, we can live in a city that
will be beneficial for everyone here.”