- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Dino Wright will have big shoes to fill when he takes over the State House shoeshine stand.

Mr. Wright will reopen the stand today for the first time in four years, as state lawmakers return to work just seven weeks after the grueling special General Assembly session in November.

“I’m really excited,” said Mr. Wright, who will run the shoe-polishing service that ended when State House fixture Jimmy Chambers passed away in 2004.

Mr. Wright — who prefers the more professional title “bootblack” — has been polishing shoes for nearly 30 years at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Chambers, became a political institution during the roughly 50 years he polished shoes at the base of the marble staircase leading to the first floor of the State House.

The small stand, about 6 feet wide and with two leather chairs, had become a regular stop for Maryland governors, lawmakers and lobbyists until Mr. Chambers died.

The state then maintained the spot as an informal memorial to him, blocking it off and placing his framed obituary in one of the seats.

“I regarded it as a public service to patronize [Mr. Chamber’s] shoeshine stand,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat and a regular at the stand from the time he was elected in 1974.

Mr. Miller said Mr. Chambers would carry a diamond ring in his wallet to propose to women who would sit to get their shoes shined.

When Mr. Wright reopens the stand today, he will hang the obituary on the wall.

And he hopes at least some of the 188 Maryland senators and delegates returning to Annapolis for the 2008 General Assembly session will want a little extra sparkle in their step, following the special session in which they scuffed their way through difficult votes on tax increases and gambling bills.

“I think [Mr. Wright] will find an accommodating General Assembly,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

Mr. Busch said he and other veteran lawmakers would get their shoes polished the first day of each regular session for good luck, and that the stand became a regular place for them to converse before heading into session.

Mr. Wright runs Exec-U-Shine Hospitality Services and will operate the stand two to three days a week. His nephew, Damon Ford, will run the stand the other weekdays.

He plans to charge $5 for the service, which like so many other things in Annapolis, is slightly more than what it used to cost.

Mr. Wright spent the start of the week fixing up the stand, placing new knobs on the drawers, blowing the dust off the red leather seats and polishing them.

Mr. Wright, a Mitchellville resident, said he was polishing shoes at the Hyatt when he met Delegate Michael L. Vaughn, Prince George’s Democrat, who suggested he consider taking up shop in Annapolis.

Mr. Wright also said he’s no stranger to Maryland politics.

“I worked very tirelessly on the [Gov. Martin] O’Malley-[Lt. Gov. Anthony G.] Brown campaign,” Mr. Wright said yesterday. “There was no way they were going to leave me out of their administration.”

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