Four candidates enter race for two Bel Air town commissioner seats, more possible

With the deadline fast approaching for candidates to file in the upcoming Bel Air town election, four people have stepped forward thus far to run for two seats on the Board of Town Commissioners.

Candidates can file up to 7 p.m. Friday at Town Hall on Hickory Avenue. The election is Nov. 7, with voting to take place at Town Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Those who have filed so far are incumbent Town Commissioner Patrick Richards and three first-time candidates, Michael D. Kutcher, Amy G. Chmielewski and Christopher Jordan.

Richards, Kutcher and Chemielewski have been certified as eligible by the town Board of Ethics, town Director of Administration Michael Krantz said Thursday morning.

Jordan filed his papers and paid the $25 filing fee on Wednesday, and his paperwork has been sent to the Ethics Board, Krantz said.

A fifth person has picked up filing papers but has not returned them, Krantz said.

The other commissioner whose term is up this year, Robert Preston, is not seeking re-election and will be leaving the Town Board after 15 years. He also served for a decade on the town Planning Commission. He has been the Town Board’s vice chairman the past two years.

Bel Air elections are non-partisan. The five Town Board members serve four-year terms and are paid $4,800, with the board chairman, or mayor, receiving $6,000 annually. Terms are staggered, so there is an election every odd year.

Preston has been instrumental in downtown revitalization efforts, the town’s financial support for the new Bel Air High School auditorium and the Armory Marketplace development. He and Richards were elected without opposition in 2013, as no other candidates filed.

With Preston’s departure, the Town Board continues to experience a somewhat rapid turnover.

Two of the members, commissioners Brendan Hopkins and Philip Einhorn were elected to their first terms in 2015.

Susan Burdette, the board chairman, has been a member since 2011; however, she has already filed to run for a seat on the Harford County Council next year. If she is successful, she would have to step down from her Bel Air post next November.

Richards served on the planning commission before joining the Town Board. He has paid particular attention to budgeting and financial matters and has been an active questioner about expenditures on several town projects.

Richards works in the corporate real estate field and is an active real estate investor and licensed real estate agent, according to his biography on the town website. He lives in Homestead Village with his wife and two children.

In biographical information provided to The Aegis, Kutcher said he has lived in Bel Air since 1989 and belongs to a number of organizations including Moose Lodge No. 1952, American Legion Post No. 39 and the 29th Division Association – Post 39. He was an active leader in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and rec programs when his children were growing up.

Kutcher works for Harford County based Digital Innovation Inc., a trauma registry software development company founded by his brother.

Chmielewski said via email Friday that she moved to Bel Air in 1976 when her father retired from the Air Force and has lived in town almost all her life. When her parents moved to Florida, she and her husband purchased her childhood home.

“I’ve been married to my husband for 21 years and raising two daughters while enjoying the convenience and love for living in town, said Chmielewski who is the varsity field hockey coach at Bel Air High School and serves on the Board of Directors of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. She also works closely “with a dear friend to support and raise awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”

About 7,200 residents were eligible to vote in the last town election in 2015, when Burdette was re-elected and Einhorn and Hopkins won their first terms. There were five candidates entered.

The 2015 turnout was less than 6 percent, however, as less than 400 voters cast ballots on the Election Day and 20 absentee ballots were filed.

More information about the Bel Air town election can be found at www.belairmd.org/492/Election-2017.

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