BALTIMORE (WJZ) — William Donald Schaefer had the ability to think big and, at the same time, worry about the small details of city life, like getting potholes filled. His public service motto was “Get it done,” and boy, did he.
Mary Bubala has a look back at the man and the city he so profoundly shaped.
From the start, William Donald Schaefer saw what Baltimore could become when no one else did. For him, it was about tangible results, progress people could see. In a span of three years, Schaefer presided over the opening of three huge projects.
In 1979, the Baltimore Convention Center opened. A year later, it was Harborplace, with more than a million people in attendance. And the very next year, the National Aquarium opened.
“There’s probably not a major project that you can think of in the city that he did not touch, either as mayor or as governor,” said Don Fry, President, Greater Baltimore Committee. “When you look at the Inner Harbor, when you look at the buildings surrounding the Inner Harbor, that’s our international calling card. That’s what everybody knows Baltimore as.”
But, no doubt, it was Schaefer’s famous stunt at the Aquarium that put Baltimore on the map.
Kathy Sher remembers it well. Thirty years ago, she worked hand-in-hand with then-Mayor Schaefer on the National Aquarium.
“The news coverage of the event went all over the world. I don’t know if people remember it went international instantly and that really sent Baltimore on the international landscape at that time. Not just for having a very interesting mayor but for what was going on at the harbor at the time,” Sher said.
Schaefer is also remembered for Oriole Park at Camden Yards and making M&T Bank Stadium a reality.
But it was his connection with everyday people, dealing with their everyday problems that made him one of the most beloved politicians of all time.
“I used to rap on doors in parts of the city and say, anything we can do for you?” Schaefer said.
“His instincts were always spot on, always. We are going to miss him terribly,” Sher said.
Schaefer died Monday at the age of 89.