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Ex-councilman Miller challenges Dougherty for mayor in Havre de Grace

Incumbent Wagner does not file to run for city council seat

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

4:11 PM EDT, March 20, 2013

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Mayor Wayne Dougherty has an opponent in Havre de Grace's upcoming election: Former city councilman Jim Miller.

Miller confirmed after Monday night's council meeting that he filed last Friday morning to run for mayor.

He did not sound overly confident about his prospects but said he hoped to at least give Dougherty a run for his money and change how the city runs.

"I was thinking about it and the time was right," the 56-year-old Miller said about his decision.

"I think six years is enough for what we have been going through," he said in reference to Dougherty's tenure. "I don't know if I can win, but I don't want to give him the opportunity to run unopposed like I did [four] years ago."

The city's election filing deadline was at 5 p.m. Tuesday. With about an hour to go, two of three city council incumbents had filed for re-election, and a second newcomer had jumped into the council race, making a total of five candidates running for the three seats that are up this year.

That's the way it ended, too, as first term Councilwoman Barbara Wagner did not file for re-election by the filing deadline.

'New direction'

"The city needs to move in a new direction and there is a lot of things that haven't been done here," Miller explained following Monday's council meeting.

He pointed out the work that went into the zoning task force, which he said was "ready to go" to the planning commission last May but never moved forward.

He also mentioned last year's controversy over Joe Fiocchi's fence at the south end of the city, which was forcibly removed because it was in a city right-of-way on Commerce Street.

Miller was a vocal part of the "Save the Fence" campaign, and challenged that the Rimel family, on Market Street, had a brick wall approved via a simple phone call to the city, which council members insisted will not be allowed to happen in the future.

"I want to bring fair and consistent government back," Miller said. "I am still working on a platform, getting ready for the big debates."

Miller also pointed out he is still working.

"There is a feeling here in Havre de Grace that you have to be retired or a millionaire to run for mayor," he said, adding he wanted to take a more hands-off approach to city staff.

"If you have a good staff working for you, you don't need to micromanage," Miller said. "I am not a micromanager."

"The mayor thinks this is a full-time job, and it's not," he added.

First elected in 2007, Dougherty is seeking his fourth two-year term in the mayor's office.

Miller was defeated last May in his bid for a new term on the city council. He and fellow incumbent Fred Cullum, both sometimes Dougherty critics, were beaten by first-time candidates Joe Smith and David Glenn.

Open council seat

Cullum previously filed as a candidate for one of the three city council seats being contested in the May 7 election. Those seats are held by incumbent council members Randolph Craig, John Correri and Wagner.

Craig filed to run for a new term on Monday, and Correri filed Tuesday.

Wagner said following Monday's council meeting she had not made up her mind whether to run for a second term. In an earlier interview, she had hedged a bit, saying she wanted to discuss the time commitment with her husband. The councilwoman and her husband own and operate the Bahoukas Antique Mall on Union Avenue.

Thomas Barnes, of Eugene Drive, filed to run for city council on March 6.

A newcomer to city politics, Barnes, 46, has been president of the city's Drama Guild after moving to Havre de Grace from Abingdon 10 years ago.

"I felt we needed to get a vision from the citizens instead of just the same old vision that's out there," he said Wednesday.

With his two children getting ready to graduate from Havre de Grace High next year, Barnes said the time seemed right to run for office.

Also filing for a council seat Tuesday was Robert E. "Bob" Greene, 66, a retired businessman who lives in St. John Towers and is active in a variety of civic activities.

In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, Greene said he has a vision for the city "to become the gathering place of an emerging and rising creative class," something he said he hopes to see fulfilled by leadership he will bring to the city council.