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Candidate profile

Ricks pushes development, lower tax rate, in re-election bid

By Luke Lavoie, llavoie@tribune.com

8:43 PM EDT, October 15, 2013

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A lot has changed since Edward Ricks last ran for re-election to the Laurel City Council.

When Ricks, 69, sought his second term on the council in the 1980s, he said it took a lot more elbow grease to be an effective council member.

"The whole picture has completely changed," Ricks said. "The city is doing so well, it shows me we are a lot better off now than we were 30 years ago."

Ricks, who was elected to the council again in 2011, is running for re-election alongside fellow incumbent Valerie Nicholas in Ward 1, where the pair, who are running in support of each other, will face off against newcomer John Mathew Smith. Only two of the three will be elected on Nov. 5 as Ward 1 representatives.

Ricks, a lifelong city resident, worked for 37 years in the federal court system in Washington, spending his last 15 years as director of Family Court before retiring in 2000.

For Ricks, the main issue facing the city in the upcoming two years will be maintaining momentum when it comes to development, which he hopes can result in a more vibrant Main Street and a lower tax rate.

"Looking at the development we have, it's time to look at doing a tax rate reduction," Ricks said "That's something I would like to look at."

Earlier this year, the council voted, for the sixth year in a row, to keep the real property tax rate at 71 cents per $100 of assessed evaluation.

Ricks said he'd like to explore decreasing the rate between 2 and 4 cents, which he said would be feasible given the influx in revenue generated through the development of properties like Towne Centre Laurel and C Street Flats.

While Ricks said the tax rate is something he would like the council to explore changing, he reflected on the past two years as being positive for the city. That's why Ricks and the four other incumbents are running in support of one another as "Team Laurel."

"We have a great council, and I'm very proud of being part of these people," Ricks said. "We have really worked well together, and we all bring certain levels of expertise to the council."

Ricks added that he thinks the constituents will support the current administration by saying, "I think most of them like the continuity we have, and they want us to continue in the direction."

Jean Wilson, a member of the board of directors of the Laurel Historical Society and wife of former Laurel mayor and City Council member Leo Wilson, said she has known Ricks for a long time, and complimented him on his open mind and diligence.

"He will listen and weigh what he hears," Wilson said. "I may not always agree with Ed, but I know the decision he makes is one he has reached with a lot of study."

Wilson said the experience of Ricks and his fellow incumbents is needed for the city.

"The city is going through some changes with the new mall and development all around the city," Wilson said. "[The incumbents] bring good experience to the city and that is needed at this time."

This is part of a series of profiles on candidates in this year's City Council elections.