Almond removes herself from consideration as Baltimore County Council moves to replace Kamenetz

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles of candidates for Baltimore County executive.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond on Tuesday removed herself from consideration to serve as interim county executive as the council moves to fill the vacancy left by Kevin Kamenetz’s death.

At the start of a public hearing in Towson, the Democrat from Reisterstown said Kamenetz’s replacement “should not be chosen as part of a political coronation by council colleagues.”

After the county executive’s sudden death May 10 from cardiac arrest, the council is considering who should serve the rest of his term, which ends in December.

Since Kamenetz’s death, County Administrative Officer Fred Homan has been serving as acting executive. The county charter gives the council the authority to name someone to finish the term, with some restrictions. The panel must choose someone who meets age and residency requirements and is a member of the same party as Kamenetz, a Democrat.

Almond is one of three leading candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for county executive in the June 26 primary.

“Kevin Kamenetz believed in fair and vigorous campaigns, and so do I,” Almond said at the hearing, which drew a large crowd to the county courthouse. “I am confident in my ability to win this election fair and square.”

The councilwoman faces state Sen. Jim Brochin and former Del. Johnny Olszewski Jr. in the Democratic primary for executive. Two candidates are running on the Republican side: Del. Pat McDonough and Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr.

Throughout the hearing, residents said they did not want the council to appoint someone who is running for office.

“I was very concerned about having someone that was running for Baltimore County executive be appointed as interim,” said county resident Rick Princinsky. “That’s just totally unfair … My only question as a citizen [is], why would you ever even consider that?”

Council Chairman Julian Jones said after the hearing that Almond would have had the votes to be named to the post. The council has four Democrats and three Republicans.

“It was clear that we were going to select her,” said Jones, a Woodstock Democrat. “We thought that she has the experience and she would be the best person for the job.”

Jones said the council could vote on the replacement as early as Thursday, when the council has its next meeting, though it could also wait until a later date. The charter specifies no timetable for a decision.

During the hearing, multiple residents told council members they wanted them to pick Don Mohler, a longtime county official who was Kamenetz’s chief of staff, as the interim executive.

Councilman Tom Quirk said later Tuesday that Mohler has support among council members.

“I think he’s a fair guy; I think he’s reasonable,” said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. “I think we can get a 7-0 vote for Don, so that’s who I’ll be supporting.”

Mohler could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

In advance of the meeting, dozens of county residents sent emails to the council offering suggestions of who should be appointed — and in some cases, suggestions of whom not to appoint.

The County Council released dozens of emails to The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday in response to a public records request.

Many emails implored the council not to appoint one of its own members to complete Kamenetz’s term. Like some at the public hearing, several email writers also said no candidate running for county executive in next month’s primary election should get the job.

“The temporary county executive should NOT be a person running for office,” wrote Janey Mayo of Glencoe. “The races are too close, and having a higher profile is not fair.”

Though many writers were opposed to having a council member named as county executive, there were a few emails of support for both Almond and Jones.

Some of those who wrote in suggested that the council hold off on making an appointment until after the primary election. And then, the council should pick the winner of the Democratic primary. Supporters of that idea included Gerry L. Brewster, a former state delegate who was a longtime friend of Kamenetz’s.

“By doing this, the Baltimore County Council will have allowed the voters of Baltimroe County to decide which Democrat will fill the remainder of Kevin’s term consistent with the Baltimore County Charter,” Brewster wrote.

There were multiple suggestions for keeping Homan in the job, but also others who criticized Homan and said he should not stay on.

Several others preferred Mohler.

“Don Mohler is a perfect example of an individual with endless experience and excellent rapport across the county,” wrote Jennifer Tarr. “He has no agendas and is willing to just do the right thing.”

Others suggested former county executives Theodore G. Venetoulis, Don Hutchison or Jim Smith. “I believe Ted would be able to provide a strong hand now to keep us headed in the right direction at a time when we most need his leadership,” wrote Sam Miller, who worked under Venetoulis.

There appeared to be a campaign for people to suggest J. Carroll Holzer, an attorney who has represented community groups. “He is well-known and knowledgeable in all matters for which the County Executive is responsible,” wrote Mike Pierce, a community activist from Kingsville.

Others suggested individuals who would not be eligible because they are not Democrats: Councilman David Marks, McDonough, Councilman Wade Kach and former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman, who now lives in Towson.

Last week Jones initially said he didn’t anticipate having a public meeting as part of the process, but later reversed course. He not only set the meeting, but extended an invitation for residents to email their thoughts to officials. The period to submit emails ended Monday.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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