In reversal, Baltimore County Council will seek public input in replacing Kamenetz as county executive

In a reversal from plans stated earlier this week, Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones said Thursday the council will seek the public's help as it decides who should replace County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who died suddenly on May 10.

The council will hold a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to gather input from county residents, and is also encouarging people to email their thoughts to countycouncil@baltimorecountymd.gov between now and the close of business Monday.

Since Kamenetz’s death after suffering cardiac arrest, County Administrative Officer Fred Homan has been serving as acting county executive.

The county’s charter gives the council the authority to select a county executive when the office becomes vacant. The replacement must be a member of the same party as the former executive, in this case a Democrat, and meet age and residency requirements.

”We just want people to come out and be part of the process and tell us what’s on their mind,” said Jones, a Woodstock Democrat — who acknowledged that he’s interested in the job.

On Tuesday, Jones had said he didn’t anticipate having any public meeting or a call for applicants, saying council members were elected to make these types of decisions.

But there was disagreement among council members, with some calling for Baltimore County to follow the path Anne Arundel County took when it had to replace John R. Leopold, who resigned as county executive after being found guilty of misconduct in office in 2013. Anne Arundel’s call for applicants yielded 16 people who were interested, and the county council interviewed candidates in a public meeting before selecting Laura Neuman as executive.

Jones said he decided to solicit public input after hearing from his council colleagues that they wanted to hear from residents.

After Tuesday’s public hearing, the council could vote on a replacement for Kamenetz as early as their next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, if there’s a consensus, Jones said.

Jones said he’s gotten encouragement to seek the position of county executive in recent days, and feels he could “provide a level of stability” to the county government as it still reels from Kamenetz’s death.

Other names that have been floated as possible contenders are Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who already is running for county executive; county recreation and parks director Barry Williams; Kamenetz’s chief of staff, Don Mohler; and former county executives Theodore G. Venetoulis, Donald P. Hutchinson and Jim Smith.

Councilman David Marks, who had been calling for a transparent process, said he was glad the council agreed to hold the public hearing.

“Public input is important and I’m very pleased with the council’s decision,” said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican. “Each council member will interact with their constituents in their own way, but I think it’s important for the full council to hear from Baltimore County citizens.”

Damon Effingham, acting director of the advocacy group Common Cause Maryland, also praised the decision.

“So often when legislators at any level receive criticism of any nature, they can dig in,” Effingham said. “But the council has heard some of the criticism around the state and county and they’re listening.”

The person who is selected as county executive would serve for the remainder of Kamenetz’s term through early December. Kamenetz was in his second and final term as county executive and was running for governor at the time of his death.

Tuesday’s Baltimore County Council meeting will be held at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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