Harford County Executive Barry Glassman opened his second term on Monday with a call for unity among Harford residents in the face of local and national tragedies and political polarization.
In his address Glassman, a Republican who was elected last month to a second four-year term, cited the parable of the lost sheep — in which a shepherd with 100 sheep loses one, then searches for it diligently until his entire flock is restored.
He said residents must do the same — help a neighbor dealing with unemployment, homelessness, hunger or other issues.
“We will not be satisfied until we go out and we find and help that one,” he said. “I challenge each of you here today to look for that one. Give them a hand up, a job, a meal, a second chance.”
Glassman and the seven members of the Harford County Council were sworn in Monday before an audience of about 1,000 in the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.
In his address, the county executive touched on tragic events that have happened in Harford County over the past four years — including the murder of two Hafrord County Sheriff’s Office deputies in 2016 and the deadly shooting at a Rite Aid distribution center in Perryman in September — and said residents had come together in the face of those incidents.
“We have seen national violence come to our doorstep for the first time and the loss of our traditional innocence,” he said.
Glassman said he and Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who was in the audience, “will always be bound by those days.”
Yet he added: “We both have seen the light of Harford County’s communities outshine the darkness.”
Clergy members from Harford’s Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities offered opening and closing blessings and prayers at the ceremony.
“One of the visions I have for Harford County, as a growing metropolitan county, is that we become more progressive and open to other cultures, other religions,” Glassman, 56, said in an interview after the event. “I think Harford County, historically, has been that way.
“The national tides are pushing a lot of folks in different directions, and I think it’s good just to have a voice of unity out there that keeps us at our anchor of where we’ve always been as a county,” he added.
In his comments, the county executive touted successes of his first term, including doubling the general fund balance, stabilizing county debt and maintaining Harford’s AAA bond rating.
He noted implementation of pay increases for county school teachers, Sheriff’s Office deputies and county employees; a 20 percent property tax credit for retired military members and residents who have lived in the same dwelling for 40 years or more; and increased digital services offered by the county.
He highlighted the county’s development of a 24/7 mental health crisis center — the first of its kind in the state. A telephone hotline went live earlier this year, and a crisis center in Bel Air is expected to be ready by next spring or summer, Glassman said.
He said in his new term, he would advocate for “parity of accessibility and coverage” for mental health patients.
Other priorities, he said, include continued development of the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials and Processes Center in Aberdeen to promote 3-D manufacturing; completion of a connection of the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in Bel Air; working with the community college and the business community to set up a vocational training center in southern Harford; and setting up a “day hub” in the northern part of the county with high-speed Internet access.
Harford resident and Baltimore-area sports broadcaster Scott Garceau served as master of ceremonies Monday, and noted that he was emcee when Glassman was first inaugurated to the County Council in 1990.
Since that time Glassman has spent nearly 30 years in public office, serving on the council and in the Maryland General Assembly before being elected to his first term as county executive in 2014. The Harford County charter limits an executive to two terms.
In addition to his duties as county executive, Glassman will also will serve as president of the Maryland Association of Counties in 2019.
The inauguration included Churchville Elementary School Patriots leading the Pledge of Allegiance and appearances by the North Harford High School Choir, the Havre de Grace High School Symphonic Band, The John Carroll School Jazz Band and Bella Voce, and country singer Dean Crawford accompanied by Kenny Wise of The Dunn’s River Band.
Also performing were youth and adult members of the Harford County Recovery Choir, composed of people who have been affected by opioid addiction.
Vincenti takes helm as County Council president
The County Council sworn in Monday is led by a new president, Patrick Vincenti, and has three new members — Andre Johnson representing District A, Tony Giangiordano in District C and District E representative Robert Wagner.
Wagner previously served on the council from 1990 to 2006; he spent 12 years as the District E representative and his final four as council president. Giangiordano and Johnson are new to the council.
Returning to the council are members Joe Woods in District B, Chad Shrodes in District D and Curtis Beulah in District F.
James Reilly, Clerk of the Circuit Court, presided over the swearing in ceremony for all eight elected leaders.
In his address, Vincenti said he and his colleagues were “humbled and honored” for the opportunity to serve.
He congratulated Glassman and his administration, and said members of the council “look forward to a collegial working relationship with the executive branch.”
Vincenti was elected to his first term on the council in 2014. He was part of an all-male, all Republican council for the past four years.
He leads a legislative branch that is still all male, but now has one Democrat, Johnson.
Vincenti said he has met with council members to discuss their “ideas and vision” for the next four years.
“Collectively, as the council body and legislative branch, we all share many of the same visions for Harford’s future,” he said. “I am confident that this council will act in a professional manner, with one purpose — to best serve all citizens.”
He said goals include maintaining Harford County’s quality of life, “strengthening and investing in” public education, a continued commitment to law enforcement and emergency services and working with all partners to provide resources to combat the ongoing deadly opioid crisis.
He also pledged continued support for Aberdeen Proving Ground — the post is Harford’s largest employer — and to reinvest and revitalize neighborhoods and commercial areas along Route 40.
Other goals include preserving and protecting farms and rural communities and working to “foster and encourage” more local economic development.
“My pledge to [the citizens] is simple,” he said. “Given the trust you have bestowed upon me, I will give you my best every day.”