A former county executive will head a Baltimore County commission that will review the local government's charter for the first time in more than 25 years.
Ted Venetoulis, a Democrat who was county executive from 1974 to 1978 and made an unsuccessful 1978 bid for governor, was selected as chairman of the 11-member commission by County Council Chairman Tom Quirk.
Voters in November approved a ballot question calling for a review of the charter every 10 years, starting in 2017. The charter — a governing document for the county — was last reviewed in 1989.
Venetoulis, 80, is president of H & V Communications, a company that provides economic development materials for cities across the country. He is also a trustee at Goucher College.
He previously was the publisher and owner of Times Publishing Group, which published weekly newspapers including the Baltimore Messenger, The Jeffersonian, Owings Mills Times and Towson Times in suburban Baltimore; founder and director of Columbia Bank; a commissioner of the Maryland Port Authority; a trustee of the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission; and the chairman of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's transition commission in 2010. He was also a television commentator for WBAL-TV.
"He knows the charter already," said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. "He's basically lived it, being the county executive in the past."
Venetoulis, who lives in Pikesville, said it's a good idea to review the charter periodically.
Venetoulis said he plans to start with a clean slate. While he does not anticipate any dramatic issues, he believes the document can be "cleaned up." He believes the county, which has grown from 650,937 residents in 1978 to 831,128 in 2015, is functioning well.
He wants input from officials, civic groups and citizens.
"We'll do it in a way that is open and the public can participate," he said. "We'll see what they're interested in."
Councilman David Marks, a Republican from Perry Hall, said Venetoulis is a good choice with a wealth of knowledge.
Marks would like to see the commission look into expanding the County Council to nine seats, an issue he said that has garnered interest over the last five years. He believes expanding the seven-member council would decrease the size of "mammoth" districts and have the part-time position be more of a part-time commitment.
Quirk said instead of expanding the council, he'd rather see an increase of resources in the county council staff.
The commission is expected to report its findings to the council by Oct. 15, including drafts of any recommended charter changes. At least one public hearing must be held.
Two commission members will be appointed by the county executive, each council member will appoint a member and the county attorney serves in an ex-officio role.
Quirk has chosen former county councilman John "Jack" Murphy as his district's representative. Others chosen , include retired attorney Nedda Pray, who was chosen by Cockeysville Republican Wade Kach and Tony Campbell, who was chosen by Marks. Campbell, a Towson University professor, lost to George Harman by 20 votes in the Republican primary for county executive in 2014.