Devin Tucker is no stranger to Anne Arundel politics.
The Russett community advocate and owner of a philanthropic consulting business has run for office twice before – in 2006 for County Council, and then, four years later, for a state delegate seat.
This time around, Tucker is hopeful he can make it to office to effect what he sees as some much-needed change.
The Democrat is running for an Anne Arundel County Council seat in District 4, which represents parts of Maryland City and Russett, as well as Crownsville, Gambrills, Crofton and Odenton.
Current Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat from Crownsville, has reached his two-term limit and cannot run for the seat again.
This year, two other Democrats – Andrew Pruski and Scott Hymes – have filed in District 4. The winner of the June primary will face Republican E. "Chike" Anyanwu in November.
Topping Tucker's list of concerns for the district is public safety, and particularly the saga of several local fire departments. He said chronic understaffing over the past five years at the Maryland City and Herald Harbor volunteer fire departments has led to slower response times and inflated insurance rates for local residents.
"We've been paying a premium, and I think it's just another example of how we've been last on the list for all county services," Tucker said.
Another service Tucker would like to see improved is the school system and the quality of local schools.
"That's really why people move to a great community, is for the great schools," he said.
Tucker said he sends his own two daughters, ages 12 and 7, to a private school because he wanted smaller class sizes for them.
At Brock Bridge Elementary School, he said, class sizes were too large and the school's open classroom settings not conducive to learning.
While the arrival of a new contract school, Monarch Global Academy, might help ease some overcrowding, he said he would continue to push for a full modernization of local schools – "not just a duct-tape job."
Tucker said his vision rests largely on a goal of encouraging collaboration between Anne Arundel and other surrounding counties. For public safety, that could mean joint training exercises among police and fire departments from different counties.
On the public transportation front, he praised the collaboration between Anne Arundel and Howard counties in creating a new, shared transit organization, the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland, to improve local public transportation.
"I think it's long overdue," he said of the transit partnership, which Howard and Anne Arundel officials have invited the city of Laurel to join. ""I think this is the way of the future, where there's more collaborations on local government like this."
In Laurel, Tucker said he wanted to see collaboration between Anne Arundel County and the city on improvements to Route 198.
"It is kind of the gateway into Anne Arundel County," he said of the road. "I'd like to see it look a little prettier."
Looking toward the future, Tucker said he anticipated development, particularly at Laurel Park racetrack, to be paramount in the next four years. As a community advocate, Tucker was one of the loudest voices against allowing gambling at the racetrack.
"I just didn't think it was appropriate for our community," he said. As for plans for the Laurel Park development, he said he'd like to see the space become a golf resort rather than a new high-density community.
"The truth of the matter is, we can't really afford the development that we have going on in the county," he said, pointing to an aging police fleet and a school construction backlog. "When your agenda is just to say yes to any and all development, you are really not taking into account those public services. … I think we need to pause and take a look at what's going on."
Tucker said he'd like to inject some energy into District 4 and the county by supporting small business, particularly cyber security and technology startups.
"Small business is really what's going to drive your economy," he said, adding that the county could attract fledgling businesses with a combination of tax credits, federal workforce development grants and in-kind incentives.
"I think it's just a critical time for District 4, particularly for the communities in Laurel," Tucker said of this year's election. "I think it's time for us to just speak with one voice and to make sure that our needs are well represented."