The maze of red tape that tangles up seemingly straightforward city projects still frustrates and surprises Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides.
Take the lack of bus shelters throughout the city, a problem for Annapolis commuters for the past several years.
To Pantelides, who recently tapped a longtime family friend to consult on the plans, it should be easy enough to get moving and put the shelters in place.
Instead, there’s federal and state money to secure, regulations to follow and, of course, eight city aldermen and the public to please.
“My biggest surprise, I would say, is the time it takes to get things done,” said Pantelides, 30. “Everything is like a federal case.”
After little more than 100 days in office, the Republican mayor said holding the top elected job in Maryland’s capital city is a major learning experience. The former salesman said he relies plenty on other elected officials for help getting things done.
“You think, when you’re the mayor, you can do what you want when you want to do it,” he said. “But it’s the exact opposite.”
Nathan Volke, chairman of the Republican State Central Committee of Anne Arundel County, said Pantelides is working toward accomplishing what he said he’d do when he was elected, particularly in his proposed budget.
“I think he’s got an uphill battle,” Volke said.
He was referring to the advantage Democrats have in the city. Only one of the eight city council members is a Republican, and Pantelides was the first Republican elected mayor since the late Dean Johnson won office in 1997.
“I think that’s always going to be a challenge,” Volke said.
Pantelides, an Annapolis native, narrowly won the mayoral race last fall, edging out Democrat Josh Cohen by 59 votes.
“It’s only been 100 days,” said the mayor’s father, John Pantelides, who was frequently seen by his son’s side during campaign events last fall. “I think the next 100 days are probably going to be more important.”
A senior campaign adviser to Laura Neuman and onetime Congressional candidate, John Pantelides said he offers advice to his son if he wants it.
But he’s making his own decisions.
“No one’s really telling him what to do,” the elder Pantelides said, adding with a laugh: “We all tried to talk him out of running.”
Since he was sworn into office in December, Pantelides unveiled his first city budget, has held open office hours for constituents and took steps toward creating a renewable energy park in Annapolis and restarting the city’s language bank to offer translation services to residents.
David Humphreys, executive director of the Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association, is serving as a transportation and parking consultant on Pantelides’ transition team. He also served on Cohen’s transition team four years ago.
Humphreys said while the mayor is inexperienced, he is savvy.
“What he has done is surround himself with people that have experience,” Humphreys said. “At the local level, politics can get in the way … and almost always does.”
Pantelides has been criticized by union heads and minority activists who say he hasn’t been willing to meet with them , and made headlines for an expletive-laden note he slipped to one alderman during a recent City Council meeting.
In the same week, Pantelides’ cousin, Savvas Pantelides, was arrested and charged with attempted murder . Pantelides said he continues to pray for his cousin, even if some think it would be smarter for him politically to distance himself.
“There were definitely some hiccups and some bumps in the road with people,” Pantelides said. “I think the budget will be a huge issue.”
The mayor released his fiscal year 2015 budget earlier this month, which included 13 layoffs and furloughs for other employees and kept 20 positions vacant.
SEE MORE: Pantelides names acting city manager
Pantelides said these measures will save the city $2 million.
In his speech announcing the budget, the mayor said it would have to increase more than $8 million just to keep things going the way they are.
But the possibility of furloughs and layoffs angered union leaders, who said they had been in negotiations with the city for more than a year and this wasn’t part of any talks.
Pantelides said this week he’s asked officials in the city’s human resources department to reach out to the union presidents.
“Certainly, they are upset. It’s understandable,” he said. “They’re going to want to know what changed.”
He also maintains he’s kept the lines of communication open with the city’s African-American leaders, pointing out several, including former alderwoman Classie Hoyle, are members of his transition team. Hoyle was among several people who grilled Pantelides about the firing of African-American employees at a City Council meeting last week.
Pantelides said several new hires in the city’s fire and police departments are African-American. He admits he doesn’t think
much about race when it comes to city employees and would prefer to focus on the person’s qualifications.
“I don’t feel the need to perpetuate the race battle in Annapolis,” he said. “It doesn’t help the situation.”
The tense moments at last week’s City Council meeting were highlighted when Alderman Ross Arnett called Hoyle back to the podium to offer more information.
The mayor passed Arnett a note that read, “Thanks for (expletive deleted) me.”
“It was a mistake,” Pantelides said. “You move on from it.”