Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. could make history if he's elected to a fourth term in the heavily Democratic council District 7, but he's got to make it past challenger Charles "Buzz" Beeler first.
If re-elected, Olszewski, a 50-year-old Dundalk native better known as "Johnny O.," would be the longest-serving councilman ever to represent the district, which includes Dundalk, Sparrows Point, Rosedale and part of Essex. But longevity doesn't always mean efficacy, says Beeler, a 62-year-old retired county police officer also from Dundalk.
There is no Republican challenger in the November general election.
John Olszewski Sr.
Olszewski won by wide margins in previous re-election bids. His son, John Jr., serves in the House of Delegates. In recent years, Dundalk and Essex have been targeted for revitalization projects that Olszewski has been touting in the campaign, such as the Yorkway energy-efficient subdivision and Renaissance Square, an affordable housing community at the former Kingsley Park Apartments.
Olszewski said he hopes to work with the owners of the Merritt Park Shopping Center in attracting a big-chain grocery store and restaurants.
"I want to continue the progress we've made in the community. Now we have a safer community and we're generating tax revenue dollars," said Olszewski, a three-time council chairman. "Experience will matter. I think consistency and continuity are important."
Olszewski said he's most proud of the revitalization efforts and projects in the district, which also include new libraries, parks and recreational facilities, and funding for new and upgraded schools.
"With the new development coming in and new schools, I look forward to my district being vibrant and an area where people want to come."
If re-elected, he says he's looking forward to working on his district's part of the county master plan, preparing for countywide redistricting and rezoning, and increasing services for veterans.
Olszewski said he holds town hall meetings three times a year, serves breakfast at senior citizen centers and hosts an annual picnic to keep abreast of community concerns. Constituent services and staff have helped him keep his seat, Olszewski said.
Charles "Buzz" Beeler
Beeler said he decided to run two years ago because he felt Olszewski had lost touch with the district, leaving such problems as crime and code enforcement — and rodent infestation — to spiral out of control.
"I got into the race early because I knew that I was an unknown and knew that it would be a tough road," said Beeler, who is using his own money to campaign for the seat. "We are the poorest district in the county, and I didn't think it was proper to ask people for campaign contributions."
Beeler, who served on the police force for more than 30 years, proudly touts his anti-crime credentials, saying he would work to bring back community policing. County Police Chief James Johnson sent Beeler a cease-and-desist letter regarding his use of a police badge in campaign literature.
Better code enforcement would help to eliminate the rodent problem, he said, adding that he would try to get officials to work out of his district office to improve their ability to monitor the situation. Olszewski, however, said residents have told him that the county is making "tremendous improvement" in addressing the problem.
Beeler says he would also be a vocal force against illegal immigration, unchecked spending and "bloated" pension systems.
"The county is facing a budget crisis. Our manufacturing base is gone down here. We've lost most of our manufacturing jobs. Nothing is being done to bring work back into the community." Beeler said. "I want to open up lines of communication between the councilman and constituents."