Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, is setting his eyes on a new elected position in 2018.
Howard, who has been on the Board of County Commissioners for seven years and who will finish his second term in November, announced Tuesday that he will run for a seat on the county Board of Education. The announcement was made at the end of his speech at this year’s State of the County address. Three seats on the school board are open in the 2018 election and, thus far, only Westminster residents Tara Battaglia and Mary Kowalski have filed to run. The filing deadline is Feb. 27.
“In the coming year our Board of Education will hire a new superintendent, address boundaries and closures, work to meet state regulations and attempt to address a budget shortfall,” Howard said in his speech. “And given the openings on the Board of Education and the lack of candidates we’ve seen currently in the race, this is actually my greatest concern. And so I ask you to consider whether or not you have the skills, experience and desire to serve.”
Howard asked the community to look not to their left or to their right, but within themselves.
“However, I will not ask you to stand alone,” he said. “I am so concerned about the education situation and its potential impact on the remainder of the county, I will share with you that it is my intention to later this week register as a candidate for the Board of Education.”
A law passed during the prior Board of Commissioners’ term limited an individual to serving only two consecutive terms. Howard was elected to his first term as commissioner in 2010 and won re-election in 2014.
In an interview with the Times, Howard said it was not his intent to be on the ballot this year. He definitely would not run for commissioner, he said, but because of the absence of candidates for the school board so far, Howard said “it was something that I had to reconsider.” When you have a commitment to the community and can do something to help during a trying time, Howard added, “you should do that.”
Howard had not officially filed by Tuesday afternoon.
Battaglia said she thinks Howard could bring experience to the school board, having been a county commissioner.
“I think he could bring to the table a lot of good points,” she added.
Battaglia said she believes she has a good chance to win a seat on the board and that she’s been in contact with supporters on social media. It’s still early, she said, but things are “coming down to the wire” when it comes to the Feb. 27 filing deadline, and seeing who will be in the race. Primaries are on June 26.
Kowalski had not responded to a request for comment by 6 p.m. Tuesday.
A total of three seats — currently held by Devon Rothschild, BOE president Bob Lord and Virginia Harrison — will be up for election this year.
Harrison will not be seeking re-election. She previously said she cannot run again because of term limits. She was first appointed to the board in 2008, was elected to her first full term in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
As of Tuesday, Lord had not filed for re-election, but did not rule it out. When reached by the Times on Tuesday, he said: “I have considered it. However, my focus is on the important work of the Board of Education and the many things that are going on, and I don’t want to dilute that with campaigning.”
In addition to three Board of Education seats, all five county commissioners seats are up for election.
Incumbent Commissioners Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, Richard Weaver, R-District 2, and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, have filed for re-election. Thus far, Frazier is the only one of the three to have a Republican primary challenger, Tom Gordon, of Westminster. Republicans Frank Robert and Ed Rothstein, both of Sykesville, are both running for the seat in District 5, currently held by Howard.
No candidates have filed yet for District 4. Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, who, like Howard, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, has not filed for re-election. He told the Times Tuesday afternoon that he has not yet decided if he will seek a third consecutive term.
During Rothschild’s first term, he and Howard both voted to support the law imposing term limits on county commissioners. Last year, Adam Snyder, chief counsel for opinions and advice with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, sent a letter to the State Board of Elections that stated “in my view, any commissioners who were elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 are ineligible to seek a third consecutive term in 2018.”
However, Rothschild has argued the rule change passed by the prior board is not binding upon him, or Howard. “Historically, under the Maryland Constitution, elected bodies have been generally limited to rules and compensation changes that are implemented prospectively, not retrospectively,” Rothschild said last March. “If you change salaries of elected officials, it applies the next time. If you change benefits, it applies the next time around.”
Rothschild said Tuesday his decision will come in the next couple of weeks. He also said while the thought of running for school board has crossed his mind, he “probably” wouldn’t do it.