Republican Harford County Councilman Curtis Beulah is seeking re-election to a second term representing District F, based on the experience he has gained over nearly four years of serving his constituents.
He is being challenged by Democrat Wini Roche, a first-time candidate motivated to run by concerns over issues happening at the local and national level.
District F covers Havre de Grace, sections of Abingdon, as well as Aberdeen Proving Ground, Belcamp, Perryman and Riverside.
Election Day is Nov. 6; early voting runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1.
Beulah, 62, of Abingdon, was elected to his first term in 2014.
He won a three-way Republican primary this June with 61.21 percent of the vote.
Beulah has lived in Harford County for 31 years, according to his campaign website. He is an Army and National Guard veteran and president and wealth manager for the Diamond Financial Group, a Nottingham-based financial services firm which he and his wife, Jean, founded and own.
They have been in business for more than 30 years, Beulah said in an interview Tuesday. He and his wife have six children and eight grandchildren.
Beulah said in a written statement that “it has been my pleasure” to serve Harford County during his first term.
“Having the ability to help many citizens and businesses throughout my district has been very rewarding” he wrote. “I am seeking re-election because I can see that there is more that needs to be done, and I will continue to work to get results to help my community.”
Beulah stated that serving on the seven-member County Council, the county’s legislative body, “has given me a first-hand education in local government from the ground up.”
“I am a better, more effective councilman today with the experience I have gleaned over the past [four] years,” he wrote. “Experience counts!”
He said he has formed strong working relationships with his council colleagues, the county administration, led by County Executive Barry Glassman, municipal leaders and members of Harford’s legislative delegation in Annapolis.
Republican Donna Blasdell and Democrat Andre Johnson face each other in the race for Harford County Council District A, representing Edgewood and Joppa. One will succeed outgoing Councilman Mike Perrone, as he is not seeking re-election after one term.
He said his legislative aide, Lydia Brennan, has been “a very integral part of making me a success” as he goes through “on-the-job training” as a council member.
Beulah noted multiple accomplishments in his first term, often stemming from professional relationships, such as the council’s passage of three consecutive annual budgets prepared by the county executive, budgets that come with pay raises for county employees, public schools teachers and Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies without implementing tax increases.
The county has also maintained its top AAA bond rating during the same time period, according to Beulah.
Other first-term accomplishments include working with City of Havre de Grace officials and state legislators to obtain funding for a new fire and rescue boat for the Susquehanna Hose Company, the volunteer fire company serving Havre de Grace.
He has also worked with the county administration and County Council, state and federal agencies, to improve road and pedestrian infrastructure on the Perrryman peninsula and supported or introduced council legislation to spur economic development along the Route 40 corridor by rezoning select properties and expanding enterprise zones in Havre de Grace and Belcamp, Perryman and Riverside.
“One of my top priorities is economic development in the [Route] 40 corridor and throughout the development envelope,” Beulah stated. “No one councilman can do it alone. It is a collaborative effort with my fellow Councilmen, the County Executive and his administration, the State of Maryland and the Private Sector to develop and implement a comprehensive economic development plan throughout the county.”
Beulah serves on multiple local boards and commissions related to state and local government and community organizations. The active, 22-year member of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Bel Air has worked with many other people in the local faith community to establish the Hope for the Homeless Alliance.
The nonprofit works with the county government and faith-based community to support homeless individuals and families, according to Beulah.
“That was the one promise that I made on the campaign trail the first time around, that I would raise awareness of the homeless situation here in Harford County,” he said.
His priorities if re-elected, in addition to economic development, include providing funding to local law enforcement to combat the ongoing deadly opioid addiction crisis in Harford and to hire school resource officers to enhance safety in the schools. He also plans to work to secure funding for volunteer fire and EMS companies.
Beulah said wants to work with the county and state delegation to obtain funds to “competitively compensate our educators.”
Beulah also addressed a question regarding liens for unpaid taxes the state and IRS have filed against him, his wife, Jean and their business entity, Deltex Management, according to online court records and state tax lien documents.
The IRS filed a lien for a judgement of $166,545.17 in Harford County Circuit Court in March of 2016. The state made its filing in Circuit Court in July of 2017, for a judgement of $6,476.12, according to records.
Beulah stressed that he and his wife take responsibility for the back taxes and have been making regular payments.
“In our 30 years in business, we have experienced bounty and adversity,” he said in a statement. “As a small business owner, my company went through challenges during the downturn in the economy. As the owner of that business I am responsible for the back taxes owed. I sought legal counsel and have taken responsibility for what we owe and are making payments. All our tax filings are current. All our quarterly tax payments are current.”
Wini Roche, 48, lives in Havre de Grace. She is married with a 12-year-old son and two stepchildren. She is a tourism and marketing consultant and the owner of the Roche & Associates consulting firm located in Havre de Grace.
She decided in February to make her first run for elected office.
“I’m a frustrated, concerned and motivated mom, and I’m concerned about the future of our county, just as I am our country and I felt compelled to do what I could to make things better,” she said Thursday.
Roche said she “really did feel a calling to public service” with issues on the national level, such as the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14.
Roche grew up in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore, briefly lived in Baltimore City and has lived in Havre de Grace for 15 years.
She worked as Harford County’s tourism manager for nine years, leaving after the county tourism office closed and the nonprofit entity Visit Harford! was designated to market the county for tourism.
“My plan was to see that tourism be privatized, so it worked out well,” Roche said.
She established her consulting firm after leaving county government.
Roche said she has not actively worked with clients in recent months, though, because of the focus on her campaign for council.
Part of her campaign platform is steering more money to Visit Harford! The nonprofit gets grant funding from the state and from revenue generated by Harford’s 6 percent hotel occupancy tax adopted in 2015.
Roche, however, wants to see more county funds go to Visit Harford!, through an annual allocation rather than requiring it to apply for a grant each year.
“By reinvesting more into Visit Harford! you’re really perpetuating the [tourism] industry,” she said.
There are many planks in Roche’s campaign platform, beyond tourism and marketing, though.
She is one of six women, five of them Democratic, running for the County Council, which has been all male and all Republican since the current members were elected in 2014.
Roche said she thinks it is “critical to have more diversity of thought on the County Council.”
“With the fact that it’s all men, it’s all one party and that just doesn’t seem like fair representation to me, and that’s what I’m looking to do is represent and represent fairly and justly,” she said.
Other priorities for the Harford County Public Schools parent include improving school safety and greater investment in the classrooms, especially ensuring teacher salaries are competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.
“Everything interconnects with education, in my opinion, because people are not going to move their company here, they’re not going to buy a house or move their family here if they don’t think their child is going to get a top-notch education,” she said.
The opioid crisis is another key issue for Roche.
Roche said she is a proponent of medical marijuana, which is legal in Maryland and available at several dispensaries in Harford County, as an alternative to potentially addictive pain medication.
She also expressed support for University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake’s efforts to develop a behavioral health pavilion as part of its Vision 2020 project, providing greater inpatient and outpatient resources to people with mental health issues that often commingle with substance abuse.
“There are people struggling . . . they’re struggling with anxiety, they’re struggling with depression, they’re struggling with pain,” Roche said.
Roche said she wants to see facilities in Harford for youths dealing with mental health issues and greater “continuum of care” so patients’ cases can be properly managed after leaving inpatient treatment.
“There’s gaps, and there’s no one that’s managing a person’s case over time,” she said.
Roche said she would like to see a “tourism and entertainment” corridor along Route 40 with attractions that will bring more people to area hotels. Roche also wants to revitalize the motels along the highway and have diners open to bring back a feel of Route 40’s heyday in the 1950s.
Roche also wants to see more recreational options in Harford for youths her son’s age, options that will get teens off the couch and away from their smartphones.
“I’m a motivated, hard-working mom that lives the everyday issues of the Route 40 corridor,” she said.