County Executive elect Steuart Pittman discusses inauguration and priorities.
Whether your candidate won or lost in November, today should be a joyous day. The inauguration of a new county executive, county council and a range of other public officials signify that democracy works.
The voters of Anne Arundel County decided they wanted a change and chose Steuart Pittman as the person to lead them toward it. When he takes the oath of office at Maryland Hall this morning, he can be expected to offer thanks as well as an indication of where he will go first.
In a conversation with editors and reporters from The Capital, Pittman was open about some of the changes coming with his new administration and coy about others.
But he was clear about one subject, the handoff from outgoing County Executive Steve Schuh has been professional and helpful. Schuh may not have won a second term, but he can leave office knowing the county is a better place thanks to his service. We wish him well in whatever comes next.
The new county executive has the benefit of a well-led transition team and a corps of appointments coming with him to the Arundel Center. Some are new names, others are familiar.
As county residents look to see how the changes Pittman promised will play out, we foresee these developments as the ones to watch.
Pittman makes no bones about his plans to maximize revenue under the tax cap. Several Republican administrations have chosen to leave money on the table — or in taxpayers’ pockets depending on how you see it — that could be used to improve services.
And the Davidsonville Democrat was not shy about the likelihood that development fees will go up, reflecting his view that the Schuh administration tipped the scales too far toward growth.
Voters should watch for signs that Pittman will decide to seek an income tax during his first budget, providing revenues to fund salary increases for the public safety and education employees who so strongly supported his campaign.
Anne Arundel does have one of the lowest tax rates in the state, and even though it has always been called “tax adverse” the new Democratic majority on the County Council has a set of goals that match Pittman’s.
Some key appointments are likely soon. Police Chief Tim Altomare and Fire Chief Alan Graves both appear to be interested in staying. But Pittman is listening to union leaders unhappy with the status quo.
He is wisely mulling two ways to deal with this, improve the relationship between the unions and the administration or change the leadership. We think both men should stay, but Pittman’s should be able to pick his own public safety chiefs.
The executive-elect has made much of transparency in government, and improvements could come quickly. Ben Birge, the incoming chief administrative officer, has begun discussions on ways to bring the open government ideas he helped build at the CountyStat office and the Transforming Neighborhoods program in Prince George’s County.
Finally, while Pittman wouldn’t say what his first piece of legislation would be, he is seeking a closer partnership with the council than his predecessor. We expect to see legislation granting the county auditor, who works for the council, among the first submitted on behalf of the executive.
The first day of any new venture is often the most exciting. All of the problems are still challenges and all the unforeseen hurdles remain neatly just over the horizon.
Pittman brings enthusiasm and a firm grasp on what he hopes to accomplish in this job. We wish him the best.