Catonsville's Quirk to lead County Council in 2017

Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk is expected to be elected chairman of the seven-member County Council next week.

Quirk, a 47-year-old Democrat whose district includes southwest Baltimore County, previously led the council in 2013. He was first elected in 2010.

The designation is mostly administrative, said Quirk, of Catonsville.

As chairman, he'll run council meetings and work with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to set meeting agendas. The council chair sponsors bills that the county executive requests.

"It's good to help lead the direction of the county," Quirk said. "I'm honored and humbled by my colleagues."

He'll also have key decisions to make, including selecting a leader for the county's new charter review commission.

In November's election, voters chose to have the charter — a governing document for the county — be reviewed every 10 years, starting in 2017. The charter was last reviewed in 1989.

Quirk has not decided who will chair the committee, but said he has chosen former councilman John "Jack" Murphy as his district's representative.

The committee is expected to report its findings to the council by Oct. 15.

He said he'll go to Annapolis for legislative issues if needed, but said much of what the county does is autonomous from the state.

Quirk believes the county is functioning well. He wants it to continue to run as efficiently as possible and in a fiscally responsible way.

Quirk, a financial planner, said he will continue to be the chair of the council's Spending Affordability Committee, which he has done since 2012.

"It's going to be a busy 2017," he said. "But I'm ready for it."

The chair of the council makes $70,000 a year, compared to the $62,500 annual salary for a council member. The positions are part-time.

Councilman David Marks, one of three Republicans on the council, expects the vote to be unanimous. With the four Democrats in the majority on the council, Marks said there has been an expectation that Quirk would be the chair in 2017.

Democrats Vicki Almond and Cathy Bevins have chaired the council in 2016 and 2015. The terms of the members expire in 2018.

Almond said it takes a leader who can work on both sides of the aisle to be effective.

"It takes that kind of a person to be the chair, to work with Democrats and Republicans and realize that local government isn't really partisan. It's about the where the rubber hits the road issues," she said. "I'm excited he's up for election."

Marks said he and his peers appreciate Quirk's background in economics.

"Councilman Quirk is not particularly partisan on issues before the council and I think we are all very ready to work with him," he said.

The council vote is set for Jan. 3, the start of a new legislative year.

The council typically holds legislative meetings twice a month.

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