Harford County Councilman Joe Woods, the incumbent Republican representative of District B, is seeking re-election to a third full term while his challenger, Democrat Suzanne Oshinsky, makes her first run for local elected office.
District B encompasses the Fallston and Joppa areas along Route 152, plus parts of Abingdon and greater Bel Air.
Woods was appointed to the council in June 2009 — he succeeded the late Veronica 'Roni" Chenowith, who died in office in March of that year. He was elected to his first full term in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
Woods had no opposition in the primary or general election four years ago. Neither he nor Oshinsky had opposition in their party primaries this year.
Woods, 40, is a lifelong resident of Fallston. He lives in a house built by his grandfather with his wife, Laura, and their dogs, a Dalmatian named Buck and a redbone coonhound named Ellie Mae.
Woods is a past chief of the Fallston Volunteer Fire & Ambulance Company and a volunteer member of the county’s Technical Rescue Team. Woods is a former civilian firefighter with the Department of Defense and now a reserve emergency manager with the Department of Homeland Security.
He was deployed to Florida for 10 weeks last year, from mid-September to late November, with FEMA to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts — his dog Ellie Mae is a rescue pet who came home from Florida with him.
Woods said he can, under the federal Stafford Act, run for and hold elected office, although he cannot work with federal agencies while his name is on the ballot.
Laura Woods owns Maryland Quartermaster, a Fallston-based supplier of equipment for military, police and other public safety workers. Joe Woods said he helps his wife at the store.
“I still believe strongly in all the principles of smaller government, so I want to make sure that we maintain our services at the same level without [raising taxes],” he said.
Issues of concern for Woods include maintaining Harford’s “top-notch” public safety agencies and its quality public schools. Woods praised the schools in his district, including Fallston Middle School, which was recently named a National Blue Ribbon School.
He remains concerned about the ongoing local opioid addiction crisis, ensuring school safety, preserving the boundaries of Harford’s development envelope so growth does not shoot up Route 152 and tackling developments tailored to medium and low-income residents.
He stressed affordable housing developments should be “in the right area,” such as areas with mass transit lines.
“I’m not opposed to it,” he said. “It just needs to fit and it needs to work.”
Oshinsky, 47, lives in Bel Air South. Her family moved to Harford County in 2015 when her husband, a civilian scientist for the Army, was transferred from Fort Detrick in Frederick County to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
She has two children, both with special needs. She home schools her 11-year-old son, who has high-functioning autism. Her 9-year-old daughter attends Harford County Public Schools and receives services through her school.
“Different kids have different needs,” Oshinsky said. “For [my daughter], it’s working really well.”
Oshinsky is a writer, stay-at-home mother and former religious educator.
She said education, especially increasing local funding for schools and expanding services for students with special needs, is the main reason she is running.
Her concerns include cutbacks in classroom support staff, ensuring teachers are paid competitive wages and reducing overcrowded classrooms.
“I want each kid to achieve their potential and thrive, and right now each child isn’t getting what they need to achieve that potential,” Oshinsky said.
Other issues of concern are promoting business development in downtown areas, creating more walkable communities, improved public transportation to benefit youths, seniors and anybody who doesn’t have a car, expanding mental health services — especially for children — more recreation opportunities for teens, and creating a diverse County Council responsive to citizens and not a “rubber stamp” for the county executive.
“I want to encourage other people who don’t think that they could do this, that you can,” she said of running for office. “You have to try and learn and do the best you can.”