By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun
12:45 PM EDT, June 17, 2013
Joanna Conti is taking a second shot at becoming Anne Arundel's county executive.
The Democrat, who formally announced her candidacy last week, said she'll focus on boosting job creation, improving schools, cleaning up waterways and increasing public safety.
"I am particularly good at digging into complex problems and solving problems," Conti said in an interview.
This is the second time around for Conti, a former business executive who finished second in a three-way executive race in 2010. Republican John R. Leopold won with 50 percent of the vote, Conti earned 44 percent and Green Party candidate Mike Shay received 5 percent.
Conti knew shortly after her 2010 loss that she wanted to try again.
At the time, she said she determined to invest "four years in understanding the issues of Anne Arundel County and making a difference."
Conti has been something of a professional volunteer since the last election, working with groups related to schools and fundraising for nonprofits. She's also been studying issues, she said — including emergency response times and the development process — in hopes of being able to "hit the ground running" if elected.
Describing herself as a "serial entrepreneur," Conti said she'll improve the county government's use of technology and make decisions based on data.
"If you analyze the data, it will tell you where you're doing well and where you need to improve," she said.
Though she decided long ago to run, Conti initially planned to announce her candidacy in the fall. But with Republicans jumping in the race already, she felt she needed to get her name out there.
Conti feels she's in better shape in terms of name recognition than she was in 2010.
"People know me now," she said. "At this point four years ago, I was just starting."
At the time, Conti was still a relative newcomer to Anne Arundel County, having moved to the Broadneck Peninsula near Annapolis in 2006 with her blended family, which includes her husband and four grown children between them.
Between the 2010 election loss and now, Conti took over chairmanship of the school system's countywide Citizen Advisory Committee. She said the school board eventually reorganized the group, appointing 29 members.
Conti moved on to form a group called the Parents Advocacy Network. Last November, the group held a seminar on bullying, she said. For this fall, the group is working on a seminar to help parents of special-needs students work with the school system, she said.
She also founded Anne Arundel Cares, which raises money for nonprofits. She said the group has raised $46,000 since September.
Thus far, Conti is the only Democrat in the executive race. She was the only Democrat who ran in 2010.
On the Republican side, Del. Steve Schuh of Gibson Island and County Councilman John Grasso of Glen Burnie have announced that they're running for county executive.
Many eyes are on Republican County Executive Laura Neuman to see if she'll try for a full term. Neuman was appointed county executive in February after Leopold's resignation. He had been found guilty of misconduct in office.
Neuman hasn't publicly committed to running, but she has formed a campaign committee and held a fundraiser this month at Level restaurant in Annapolis.
As of February, Anne Arundel had 357,204 registered voters, according to the county's Board of Elections. About 43 percent are Democrats, 36 percent are Republicans and the rest are unaffiliated or registered with third parties.
Residence: Broadneck Peninsula.
Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 2010; founder of Parents Action Network and Anne Arundel Cares; formerly worked in brand management and marketing; ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Colorado in 2004.
Education: Bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware; master's degree in business from the University of Colorado at Denver.
Personal: Married with four grown children; enjoys cooking, figure skating and genealogy.
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