William Donald Schaefer, the powerful former governor who is now state comptroller, said a young woman in the governor's office was embarrassed by his attention at a Statehouse meeting, but he was angrily unapologetic.

"She's a pretty little girl," the 84-year-old Democrat told reporters. "The day I don't look at pretty women is the day I die."

Schaefer stared intently at the woman as she walked toward the governor's office after she brought him a beverage Wednesday during a Board of Public Works meeting. Then he summoned her back, as people waiting to testify watched and waited.

The aide, looking puzzled, returned to the table, and Schaefer told her, "Walk again," and watched her as she made the second trip to the exit.

He then went into the governor's private office and returned to say the woman was embarrassed by the incident.

When reporters later asked him about the incident, he called their interest "dumb." He said "this little girl" ought to be "happy that I observed her going out the door."

"The one who is offended is me," he told the reporters.

Shareese DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for the Republican governor, declined to identify the aide, saying the aide did not want to talk to reporters or have her name published.

Schaefer is seeking re-election as comptroller in November and has spent 51 years in public service, including eight years as governor and 16 years as Baltimore's mayor, when he helped build the Inner Harbor and revitalize the downtown.

Odd remarks and antics by Schaefer at meetings of the Board of Public Works are commonplace. He once complained about a Spanish-speaking fast-food worker and has suggested creating a public registry of people with AIDS.

He also has referred to women as "little girls" -- a term celebrated by some women who have worked for him, who say he treated them with respect. After a campaign ad in 2002 suggested he was unfair to women, some former employees held a rally and waved signs that read, "Little Girls for Schaefer."