Kevin Kamenetz was sworn into office Monday for a second term as Baltimore County executive, pledging to go beyond running government with "an adroit hand with a ledger" to also press inclusion for the county's diverse population, opportunity in education and jobs and celebration of community traditions.
"Baltimore County must be a place where people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs feel comfortable living together and working together," he said in inaugural remarks during a ceremony at Towson University's SECU Arena Monday morning.
The executive did not mention events such as the unrest related to the Missouri incident involving a white police officer who fatally shot a black teenager, but in an interview said he was influenced by events "across this country and around the world" to discuss diversity and inclusion.
Kamenetz, a Democrat, said Baltimore County has worked to improve diversity among county employees, especially police officers and firefighters.
"For people to have confidence in their government, they want to make sure that it also reflects the diversity of the community, and we're going to continue with those efforts," he said.
Also at the ceremony, the County Council welcomed three new members: Republican Wade Kach of Cockeysville, Republican Todd Crandell of Dundalk and Democrat Julian Jones of Woodstock.
For Kach, who previously served 10 terms in the House of Delegates, being sworn in for elected office was not new. But he said serving at the county level will be "quite the change."
Kach took his oath of office with a heavy heart: He said his mother died Monday morning. As he recited the oath, he scanned the crowd and looked for his wife, Evelyn, for support. "It made me feel a little better," he said.
Crandell was excited to get going in his new job as councilman.
"I was more nervous than I thought I would be," he said. "Any time you're taking an oath before the Lord you should be a little nervous."
Jones had been waiting since June, when he won the Democratic primary, for his chance to take office — he was unopposed in the general election. "I'm looking forward to digging in and doing the work," he said.
Returning council members in Baltimore County relished the chance for another four years in office. Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, was mobbed by her young granddaughters offering hugs after the ceremony.
"I don't think that this kind of thing ever gets old," she said.
Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, also felt the gravity of the moment. "It's always humbling," he said. "It's an honor to represent the people. It's a big responsibility I take seriously."
"This is an exciting body. There is a lot of new talent on the council," he said.
Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, said she's spent much of the past year getting to know neighborhoods that were added to her district through redistricting. Now she's looking forward to advocating for projects in those communities.
"It's going to be a busy first year," she said.