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Business leaders square off in Harford Council's District F race

Curtis Beulah, left, and Joe Smith
Curtis Beulah, left, and Joe Smith

Despite representing different parties, Harford County Council candidates Joe Smith and Curtis Beulah seemed to have more in common than not, including their experience as business owners.

Both men are vying to represent the Havre de Grace and Abingdon areas, known as District F, on the new council to be elected in November. The seat is being vacated by Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democrat, who is running for the Maryland House of Delegates.

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Besides those areas, the district also includes Riverside, Belcamp, Perryman and part of Aberdeen.

Smith, a 50-year-old Democrat, who lives in Havre de Grace, is hoping to build on his political experience coming off of the Havre de Grace City Council.

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He spent one term on the council, where he often found himself at odds with other council members over legislation in the city.

Smith has run Glyph Art & Design Studio since moving to Havre de Grace in 2006. He said the studio is expanding into an adjacent space and believes his business experience is different from Beulah's.

"I like to think I have more of a Main Street experience. He has more of a Wall Street experience," Smith said.

Beulah, a 58-year-old Republican, who lives in Abingdon, has lived in Harford County for 27 years, is a self-employed wealth manager at Diamond Financial Group through LPL Financial.

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A newcomer to politics, Beulah said his years in the military and 27 years as a business owner have taught him teamwork and the ability to solve complex problems.

Both Beulah and Smith said they support the construction of a new Havre de Grace High/Middle School and support teacher funding and public safety.

Both said they are focused more on countywide-issues than any specific, major problems in their districts.

Both have been visible at recent council meetings and said they have been listening to the discussions about funding.

Smith said he wants to reduce costs across the table.

"It's convincing the county executive and the administration that there may be other things that may be 'nice-to-haves' or 'want-to-haves' but we have got to get our schools back on track," Smith said. "There is just no way around it."

Smith also said he would consider supporting tax credits to boost home construction, which has especially been lagging in the Havre de Grace area.

He said temporary tax incentives, similar to those in Baltimore and other jurisdictions, would hopefully allow developers to sell more lots.

"If you are going to do it, do it for something that benefits taxpayers directly," he said, adding he would like to see more infill development in brownfields or other abandoned areas within the county's development envelope.

The county's master plan, as does Maryland's Smart Growth initiatives, discourages building outside of the major developed Route 24 and Route 40 corridors.

"I have seen that work successfully in other areas, like northern Virginia," Smith said about infill development.

With his political background, Smith also said he is ready to hit the ground running and has a number of endorsements.

He is a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee and several business-related groups in Havre de Grace.

Beulah said he is an active member of Oak Grove Baptist Church, in the Bel Air area, and will likewise focus on pay raises for teachers, deputies and county employees.

He called teachers and employees the "backbone" of the county.

"The school board may want to start with a zero-based budget approach and put teacher salaries and pay increases at the top of the priority list," Beulah wrote via e-mail. "The County Executive, County Council and the school board should work together to eliminate duplication of services to find savings to fund pay increases for county employees."

"The school board likewise needs to go line by line in order to uncover savings opportunities that can help fund raises. If we work together, we can run a more efficient Harford County."

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