The annual election is around the corner for Havre de Grace on Tuesday, May 6, when voters will be filling three seats on the six-member city council.
The candidates are incumbents David Glenn and Bill Martin, newcomer Robert Robinson and former councilman Steve Gamatoria. Voters can select up to three. The election is non-partisan.
Ballots can be cast from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Patrick Hall, in the 600 block of Pennington Avenue between Stokes and Juniata streets.
The city had 9,474 voters registered as of Wednesday, Dale Livingston, deputy director for the Harford County Board of Elections, said.
Absentee ballots must be received through the mail by April 29, or returned to City Hall by 5 p.m. on May 6.
A candidate forum, sponsored by Ontario-Otsego Positive Action Committee, is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 1 at City Hall. A forum also was held in the Bulle Rock community on April 23.
The six city council members serve two-year terms. The three members not up for election this year are Randy Craig, John Correri and Fred Cullum. Joe Smith, whose term also expires this year, did not seek re-election, but is running for the Harford County Council.
Glenn, 57, is completing his first term and says he is still fired up about serving the city.
"I am running because of my love for Havre de Grace," said the lifelong city resident, who works as a supervisory management analyst for the federal government.
"My goal going in was in some small way to make a difference," Glenn said, noting he has helped get a traffic light at Route 40 and Lewis Lane since being assigned to the public safety committee.
He said he is also proud of passing a law mandating automatic external defibrillators at city pools and continuing to fight for a new Havre de Grace High School, a project he hopes to see through.
Glenn added he was glad to see school resource officers put in every city school, a move he said was not a "knee-jerk reaction" but done out of service to the children.
"That is why I run, because I love Havre de Grace, I love helping people," he said. "If anybody challenges my commitment, they just don't know me."
Although "nobody, but nobody, can predict an election," Glenn said he thinks he has done well in his first term and hopes to be in the top three come Election Day.
He did note the election is always more low-key when there is not a mayoral race.
"I think any time the mayor is not running, we will probably have a lower turnout," he said, adding he put out signs and sent a letter to the editor to The Aegis and The Record.
"I am a guy that has no hidden agenda," he said. "I think there is a lot of people who believe I have got their best interest at heart."
Martin is running for a fourth two-year term on the city council.
The 40-year-old teacher at Aberdeen Middle School said he has much more perspective on what the city needs and is determined to focus on tourism and development for Havre de Grace.
Martin said most of the city's issues, such as the mounting water and sewer debt, "could be fixed if Havre de Grace becomes the place where people want to live," and more housing construction brings more revenue in for the financially strapped system.
He said if people want to stay in the city and are encouraged to come to Havre de Grace, "I feel like the bulk of our problems will decrease."
He added he is hoping to get an All-America City designation for Havre de Grace, a process Aberdeen went through in the 1990s
Martin said he is used to having six or seven competitors for the city council seat, but he is not worried about anyone else in the race.
"I am just focused on my seat," he said. "I will treat this race like every other race."
Martin has been going door to door, sending out campaign mail and putting up signs.
"It's been a very distinct honor and pleasure to serve the city of Havre de Grace," he said. "I still have a lot more ideas and a lot more things I want to carry out and implement, and I am very gung ho about it."
Martin was heavily involved with the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 attack on the city last spring.
"I can see more clear the direction that I want to take the city, and we have come a long way," he said.
It's the first time pursuing elected office in the city for Robinson, who recently turned 70.
Robinson said he wants to see improvements like more police downtown because people are double-parking.
"I would like to see the [Concord Point] Lighthouse and the Maritime Museum and [the Decoy Museum] and Lock House Museum preserved," he added.
Robinson has lived in the city his whole life, including graduating from Havre de Grace High School. He said he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Robinson, who is retired, said he is worried about Gamatoria as a candidate and said he would "probably have to beat him."
Gamatoria said he is again ready and able to devote the considerable time that city service requires.
He served one term on the council from 2006 to 2008, including the final year as council president, but did not run for re-election, saying he did not feel he could continue to devote the time required to properly serve on the council. He did, however, leave the door open to running again when he would be able to make the necessary commitment.
Born and raised in Havre de Grace, Gamatoria was prominently involved with city government business last year, when he sold his family's Concord Street property to the city for waterfront parkland, in a process that voters approved via referendum in the May 2013 election. The transfer has been completed, and the family is receiving 25 annual payments from the city for the bulk of the $1.29 million purchase price.
Gamatoria, 55, has been heavily involved with Susquehanna Hose Company, and said he works for a "woman-owned small business" called Safe Check, which installs fire doors and similar devices.
"I had a really good experience last time [on the council] and I wanted to continue to run, but I had to step down," Gamatoria said, adding, "I think I did a pretty job last time."
"There's a lot on the table right now that can be very challenging," he said. "The things that are on the table are obviously the challenges with the budget, and the challenges with the budget are really [about] the capital cost recovery fees."
"We really need to get our arms around that," he said, explaining the city needs to find a way to generate revenue in a housing slump.
The possibility of a countywide water and sewer authority will also pose a big challenge to Havre de Grace, he said.
Gamatoria said he understands the process and the responsibility that it takes to be on the council.
"It's a lot of responsibility to serve and I don't take that lightly."
Gamatoria has been putting up signs and campaigning door to door, which he said he will keep doing.
"It's not a big, partisan, political-type race," he said about his opponents. "The other three, they are all good people. They are putting themselves out there."
As for himself, he added: "I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could win."