Voters in the greater Aberdeen and Havre de Grace areas will have the opportunity to select new Harford County Council representatives in this year's election, as seats in the two council districts covering the communities are open.
The first round is the primary election on June 24, for which early voting began Thursday and runs through next Thursday, June 19.
In District E, covering Aberdeen and areas to the east – Churchville and Fountain Green – five Republicans and two Democrats are vying for their parties' nominations in the race to succeed Richard Slutzky, who has represented the district for the past eight years. Slutzky, a Republican, is running for county council president to succeed the retiring Billy Boniface.
In District F, covering Havre de Grace, Perryman and Riverside, as well as east Abingdon, one Democrat and two Republicans are running to succeed Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democrat who is running this year for the House of Delegates in Legislative District 34.
Some background information on each candidate and their positions on school funding follows. Additional information on the candidates and their positions can be found by visiting data.baltimoresun.com/voter-guide/local/harford.html.
District E – Republicans
Dan Lambros: Age, 51; lives in Churchville; has worked in computer programming, run an established contracting company and started a farming and a real estate investment company. Family is involved in Smith's Chapel UMC, where Lambros has been a trustee and chaired the shelter board. First-time candidate.
Lambros says one way to address school funding needs is to first reduce capital spending by borrowing less, curtailing land acquisitions and outsourcing more.
"Parks are great, cultural arts centers are wonderful, but someone has to say 'we just can't afford it,'" he says. "Funding and cost cutting go hand-in-hand; that's life in the real world."
Blane H. Miller III: Age 40, lives in Aberdeen; Havre de Grace High graduate; Navy veteran; formerly worked as a civilian diver/photographer at APG; works as a general contracting company superintendent; member of Harford Republican Central Committee.
Before the next council can address school funding needs, Miller suggests everyone get "a better understanding of how surrounding counties are able to pay their teachers higher salaries."
He also says Harford legislators need to be held more accountable for getting "a bigger piece of the pie at the state level" for local schools.
Diane L. Sengstacke: Age 58, lives in Fountain Green; partner and founder of Sengstacke & Evans, a law firm in Bel Air; founder/owner Home Title Co. of Maryland; worked in other campaigns, but is a first-time candidate.
One suggestion Sengstacke has about school funding needs "is to reduce duplicative services; there are two, three or four human resources departments in the county. Why have so many?"
Another is to improve communication with modern technology to be more cost effective, "while capital programs, both planned and on the books, should be analyzed to see if that will also balance budgets."
Patrick Vincenti: Age 60, lives in Churchville; owner/operator Vincenti Decoys of Churchville and Havre de Grace, served as president of the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum; first-time candidate.
Vincenti says that during an interview with representatives of the local teachers union, they outlined "many areas of the budget where in their opinions adjustments could be made."
"I assured them that if elected I would work with the other Council members and the County Executive to ensure continued support for quality education in Harford County," he says.
Mel Wehrman Jr.: Age 48, lives in Fountain Green; is a Fire Lt./ALS with the Baltimore City Fire Department and part-time paramedic with the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation; first-time candidate.
Wehrman says he would "favor tax increases in order to make our school system the best in the state," noting that "funding our schools is funding for our future."
He also says, however, "no one likes the word 'tax,' but we need to fund the system somehow." He suggests making cuts elsewhere in the county budget and searching "every other option before...raising taxes."
District E – Democrat
Barbara Osborn Kreamer: Age 65, lives in Aberdeen; former high school teacher, former member Maryland Commissioner of Women; Harford County Council member 1978-82; member Maryland House of Delegates 1983-91, active in the building of Festival Park in Aberdeen and restoration of former freedmen's schools in Darlington and Joppa.
Kreamer says she favors cutting county spending on capital projects, economic development, law enforcement and administration to make more money available for schools.
"Let us start with re-ordering of budget priorities," she says. "Then we can explore other approaches."
Duvowel Peaker Sr.: Age 43, lives in Aberdeen; U.S. Army retired, student at Cecil Community College; assistant football coach at Aberdeen High School; member Harford Democratic State Central Committee.
Saying "schools must be our No. 1 priority; we need to invest in them," Peaker says the county and school system can be more efficient, but he wouldn't favor draconian measures like closing schools in the face of declining enrollment.
"Which community should be forced to lose an elementary or middle school? Which children should be forced to make an excessive bus ride every day to school?" he asks.
District F – Republican
Curtis L. Beulah: Lives in Abingdon; Army veteran, small business owner, active in Church.
"Harford County Public Schools are among the best in the state. We must maintain parity in teacher pay to keep from losing quality teachers and to continue to offer programs that encourage academic excellence," Behlah posted on his website. "I am against the Common Core curriculum that is being passed onto our schools."
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Monica Worrell: Age 49, lives in Havre de Grace; previously worked in the hospitality industry and is a former public information officer for the Harford County Sheriff's Office; member of several business organizations; has served on the county Economic Development Advisory Board and Tourism Advisory Board. Director of marketing for a Bel Air eye care practice. First-time candidate.
Worrell says she is "inclined to favor" a reduction of the number of schools to save money, but only after redistricting is addressed first, "as well as cuts to administrative overhead." She also notes that money "is a finite resource and a fair system of distribution for all government services is paramount."
"I believe that teachers and those who work directly with students should be the first thought, not the last, when the Harford County Public School system is building their spending budget for the upcoming year," she says.
District F – Democrat
Joseph C. Smith: Age 50, lives in Havre de Grace; works as an independent human resource consultant with several major companies as clients; co-owner of a Havre de Grace design studio; member of Havre de Grace City Council 2012-14; member of several local business organizations; member of Harford County Democratic Central Committee; unopposed in primary election.
Though he would consider raising taxes "to properly fund our school system," Smith also says the county and school system can be more efficient by eliminating duplicate services, such as information technology.
"I think we also need to reconsider additional spending on land and infrastructure until we have achieved a sustainable budget," he says.