Voters in the Third Councilmanic District will have to choose between a longtime activist running her first campaign and a 40-year veteran of the House of Delegates. Despite their different backgrounds, both say land use and education are the critical issues for the district.
Democrat Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, 58, of Chatterleigh, began running over a year ago — meeting candidates and attending meetings. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary June 24.
Her Republican opponent in November's general election is Wade Kach, 67, of Ashland. After 40 years in the House of Delegates, he turned his attention to county affairs and incumbent Todd Huff's seat and won the Republican nomination.
Since the Third District — which stretches from Lutherville to Pennsylvania — is confronted with the pressures of growth, both candidates see preserving open space, transparency in government on zoning issues and preserving the area's two reservoirs as of paramount importance.
"The real key is sustainable growth," said Taylor-Mitchell. She supports more efficient transportation in the urban centers — she backs the Towson Circulator.
Both candidates say the district's open space — parks, farms and woodlands — needs to be protected. "It's important for the County Council person in the district to maintain legacy, protect farmland, the reservoirs, and open space," Taylor-Mitchell said.
To do that, Kach said, the community needs to be included in decisions on future development.
"The public — since they live there — have greater insight on what's going on there than the so-called experts," Kach said.
"I'm not anti-development," Kach said. "We need to have decisions that are smart and looking to the future."
Calling the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process "probably the most important power the council has," Kach said, "It is incumbent upon me to get everyone's opinion about every request."
Both candidates called attention to the Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs, which, along with the Liberty Reservoir in the northwest county, provide drinking water to nearly 2 million people.
Kach said buffer zones are needed to protect the reservoirs from run-off, and its salt, phosphorous, nitrogen and silting, he said.
In the House of Delegates, Kach noted, he co-sponsored two successful bills, HB 468 in 2012 and HB 890 in 2011, tweaking the state's conservation easement program to protect farms whose land drains into the reservoirs
Both candidates list schools as another prime issue.
Kach, a Baltimore County public school teacher for 30 years, said school board-community relations need improvement.
"I'm upset with the lack of communication," he said.
Kach, who voted for legislation creating the hybrid school board for Baltimore County, was critical of decisions to build Mays Chapel Elementary School on a park site and to change the schedule at Hereford High School — both issues that sparked huge neighborhood protests.
As one of the state's most successful high schools, Kach said the Hereford school staff should have the power to decide how to schedule the classes.
"They [parents] haven't given up. And I don't think they should give up," Kach said.
Taylor-Mitchell, who has taught on the college level since her student days at the University of Michigan, first delved into local issues petitioning for air conditioning for her son's school, Ridgely Elementary, beginning in 2007. "I fought for almost four years to get that school fixed," she said.
Then Taylor-Mitchell helped block a 400-seat addition to Loch Raven High School from 2007 to 2008. "There was no evidence to show why this school needed to be expanded by 400 students," she said.
As part of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools she supported the hybrid school board bill which brings elected members onto the Board of Education beginning in 2015. "I think the hybrid school board will keep better relations between community and the school system," Taylor-Mitchell said.
Both candidates say the most important thing that separates the two of them is experience.
Taylor-Mitchell believes her persistence in local issues is proof of her ability to serve on the council.
Although she is running her first campaign, she said she's been rolling up her sleeves on local issues for a long time. In addition to her work on local school issues, she worked on local zoning issues. In 2010, she served on the Advisory Committee for the Baltimore County Master Plan 2020.
Taylor-Mitchell, married with one son, decided to run in January 2013. She resigned from Hood College in Frederick, where she taught for 10 years, to spend time at community and soil conservation district meetings and attending Baltimore County Council's work sessions since September.
"I think I have prepared myself the last two years on how the county works," she said. "I have set a firm foundation to serve the people of the Third District." she said.
Kach said his 40 years in Annapolis — and his fiscal conservativism — makes him a good candidate. Noting the small Republican majority in the Third District, he said he believes his constituents appreciate his fiscal views. "I am very, very conservative, especially on fiscal issues," he said. "I am not a spender."
Leaving the House of Delegates was tough, Kach said. "It was not an easy decision because I love the Maryland legislature," he said.
But he noted he's looking forward to working for his constituents on the County Council. "Being one of seven instead of one of 141, it's a lot easier to talk to them [council members], he said. Having experience in state government he said would be an added advantage for a county councilman. "I can bring county and state government together when necessary," he said.