After being elected by a unanimous vote on Jan. 7, 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk has quite a to-do list for 2013 in his first term as chairman of the Baltimore County Council.
"My goal in 2013 is to work closely and collaboratively with County Executive (Kevin) Kamenetz and also the council," Quirk said.
His list also includes:
• Collaborate and foster bi-partisanship
• Maintain the quality of basic, essential services
• Protect the environment and use land wisely
• Advocate for local businesses
A collegial spirit keeps the county council humming along, he said.
"We work very collaboratively," said Quirk, pointing out that party affiliation hasn't kept a bill from passage and that party lines don't separate the five Democrats and two Republicans on the council.
In fact, he said, he and Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents the 5th District that includes Perry Hall and Towson, have co-sponsored a number of bills since they were both elected in 2010.
The new chairman is excited by his new responsibilities.
"I appreciate my colleagues' trust and support," he said.
He's held the gavel a few times before, including going back to his Youth in Government days in high school.
"It's an honor to be the chairman," he said.
Quirk said the county has remained fiscally strong, despite the weak economy. The county's credit is rated AAA by all three credit rating companies, one of only 28 counties in the United States with these high ratings.
"That speaks for itself," he said.
What's more, the county has an annual budget of $2.6 billion but has not raised income taxes in 20 years or the property tax rate in 24 years.
"We really are holding the line," he said, explaining the need to keep cutting expenses. "If the county is having trouble, the taxpayers aren't having it any easier."
But that doesn't mean county residents should expect to see essential services cut. Services such as education, police, firefighters, libraries, streets and other infrastructure must be maintained at the highest quality possible, he said.
Funding them, however, remains a challenge.