Havre de Grace voters being treated to spirited race for mayor

Voters in Havre de Grace will have an opportunity to pick their next mayor and three members of the City Council in Tuesday's city election.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Martin, who was elected to his first term in 2015, is being challenged by his predecessor, former mayor Wayne Dougherty — he served as mayor from 2007 until he stepped down in 2015.

The mayoral campaign has turned spirited in the closing weeks, as two men with different personalities and styles, both with significant recent service in city government, are vying for the city's top elected office.

Three seats on the six-member council are up for election this year. Incumbent Councilman David Martin and Councilwoman Monica Worrell are running for re-election. Jason Robertson, who is seeking his first term, is running, along with former council member Fred Cullum.

St. Patrick Hall off of Pennington Avenue is the sole voting location. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, according to Patrick Sypolt, director of administration for the city.

There are 10,241 eligible voters in the City of Havre de Grace, according to Vanessa Graham, elections IT specialist for the Harford County Board of Elections.

Joe Kochenderfer, a former Havre de Grace councilman, who regularly attends council meetings and gives his views on city matters, said he expects the mayoral race to be close, but it is difficult to predict how the council race will go.

The council will have at least one new face, as incumbent Councilman Randy Craig will step down after 10 years on the council to take a break and consider a possible run for state office in 2018.

Kochenderfer, who spent 12 years on the council, serving non-consecutive terms between 1990 and 2009 said he expects Bulle Rock voters to have an impact, as they have become more involved in city affairs since the community was built 10 years ago.

"It's hard to say how it will all shake out," he added.

Mayoral candidates

Bill Martin, 43, served on the City Council for seven years before being elected mayor, and he was council president three times during his tenure from 2008 to 2015.

"I saw the major challenges that this city faced and felt for too long that the city was just being managed but not truly led," he said of why he made his first run for mayor.

He noted the water and sewer fund, also known as Fund 9, was "going out of control with no plan in sight" at the time.

Martin and other city officials have worked during the past two years to stabilize the fund, which has run a deficit for years that has to be covered by an allocation from the city's general fund.

The fund has been challenged by a lack of residential construction since the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which would otherwise generate revenue from water and sewer connection fees, and paying down debt on upgrades to the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Martin said the fund is on "a serious path to solvency" this year, though, with no utility rate increases proposed in next year's budget.

He has also been promoting the city as a place to visit and to live through multiple community events.

"We all know how great Havre de Grace is; I just wanted the world to know it," Martin said. "I'm running again because we have come so far and done so many things in just two years, and we just need to see them through."

Martin grew up in Anne Arundel County, and he has lived in Havre de Grace for 23 years. He teaches eighth grade U.S. history at Aberdeen Middle School.

Martin is married with three children.

Wayne Dougherty, 69, spent the past two years out of office traveling and spending time with family, and he wants to get back into public service.

"After the number of years in public life I wanted to dedicate at least two years to my family," he said. "We were able to do some traveling, enjoy our granddaughter; those things have been accomplished, and my biggest focus is to serve the people of Havre de Grace once again."

Dougherty's family moved to Havre de Grace from Keansburg, N.J. in 1961, when he was 13 years old. He went on to graduate from Havre de Grace High School, and he has obtained a degree in banking from the American Institute of Banking plus a criminal justice degree from Harford Community College.

Dougherty retired from the Harford County Sheriff's Office in 2001 after 27-and-a-half years with the agency. He has 31 total years in law enforcement, having spent three-and-a-half years in communications with the Havre de Grace Police Department during the late 1960s. He and his wife owned a travel agency for 37 years until they retired in 2009.

Dougherty's time in elected office began in 1997 when he was appointed to the City Council. He was elected the following year, and he remained on the council until 2001. He stepped down for one year, returned to the council in 2002 and served on that body until 2007, when he ran for mayor.

Dougherty has said he is "unhappy" with the state of the city, noting during a recent candidate forum at City Hall that economic development initiatives championed by the current administration have not paid off.

He reiterated that sentiment Wednesday. He listed a slate of issues he wants to work on should he be elected mayor, such as cutting in half or getting rid of a $25 quarterly debt service fee instituted for water and sewer customers during the current administration.

He also wants to work on improving public safety, infrastructure, auditing city employee pay scales, a "complete audit" of procedures for community events and how the city improves them, get volunteer organizations involved in planning and running events again, economic development, tourism, marketing the city, more initiatives for using alternative energy and bringing grant money to the city.

He noted the property tax rate dropped from 68 cents per $100 of valuation to 56 cents during his time as mayor, and he wants to accomplish his goal of getting that to 54 cents.

"Keeping in mind always that the citizens are first and businesses are first, and then communication," he said of his priorities.

Council candidates

Jason Robertson, 31, grew up in Essex. He and his wife moved to Havre de Grace from Edgewood a few years ago after their son, Colt, who is now 4 years old, was born.

"We love the walkability [of Havre de Grace], we love the history and the community, and the sense of community," he said. "We've made a lot of great friends since we've been in town."

He is running for his first term on the City Council; he made an unsuccessful run last year.

Robertson is an Army veteran, who was deployed to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. His main mission involved training Iraqi troops to maintain U.S.-made military equipment.

He works as an analyst for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Baltimore and has previously worked as a budget analyst for Baltimore City.

"I'm driven toward public service in general because of the time that I spent in the military," he said. "I really missed being a part of a mission and doing some good for people."

Robertson has a bachelor's degree in public policy from the University of Baltimore, and he is working on his master's in public administration from UB.

Key city issues for him include improving local infrastructure and promoting tourism, economic development and residential growth.

"At the end of the day I just want to do good work and help people, be a productive member of the community," he said.

Monica Worrell, 52, is running for her second two-year term. She had not held an elected office before she was elected to her first term.

"I got involved because I believe you shouldn't criticize government unless you're prepared to step up and serve," she said.

Worrell is married and has two sons. She grew up in Baltimore County and has lived in Harford County since 1987. She moved to Havre de Grace in 1994.

She is the marketing director and operations manager for Advanced Eye Care & Aesthetics in Bel Air.

"I've enjoyed the opportunity to be a public servant," she said of her time on council. "I've had the opportunity to work on some great projects and begin some significant endeavors, and I'd like to be able to continue that journey."

She said Fund 9 "would be at the top of my list" of city issues. Worrell noted the significant reductions that have been made in the annual deficit under the leadership of the current mayor and council.

She also wants to see improvements to the city's waterfront and to help determine what will happen to University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital once it closes as part of an ongoing University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health project to close the downtown hospital, open a hybrid medical center near the Bulle Rock community and expand Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.

"The development of that project in our downtown area is significantly important to me," Worrell said.

Fred Cullum, 67, a Havre de Grace native, spent 18 years on the council, serving nine non-consecutive terms from 1995 to 2015.

He founded and chaired the Water/Sewer Commission, which brings together city officials and citizens to advise the mayor and council on all aspects of running the water and sewer system, including setting customer rates and capital projects,

Cullum is a retired Aberdeen Proving Ground firefighter, and he has been an active volunteer firefighter with the Susquehanna Hose Company for 47 years.

He is married with one surviving son, Micheal, one grandson and one great-granddaughter. His other son, Keith, died in 1987.

"I just thought that I still had something to offer the citizens; it was something I enjoyed," he said of why he is running for council. "I think my background and past experience and knowledge will be beneficial to the council."

Cullum said he wants to upgrade local streets and update the city's zoning code, which has not been updated since it was established in the early 1980s.

"My [method] is to make good common-sense decisions based on as much information I can get and feedback from the citizens, and that's the way I've always operated," he said.

David Martin, along with Worrell, was elected to his first term two years ago. He is not related to the mayor.

The 62-year-old Martin is retired from the Maryland State Police, has worked for Fortune 500 companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Estee Lauder and Home Depot/HD Supply and now owns and operates a consulting firm specializing in helping employers with their employee benefits, according to his biography on the city website.

The Havre de Grace firm is called Creative Logic Benefits, according to Martin.

"I will work with a business owner to bring in benefits to meet the business' needs," he said Wednesday.

Martin is married with one son, a daughter-in-law and one grandchild; he and his family have lived in Havre de Grace since 2012. They moved from Jarrettsville, where they had lived for 25 years.

"I was disappointed in the direction I saw the city going," he said of why he ran for council two years ago.

Water and sewer issues were his primary concern.

"I was just worried about infrastructure failure with that large of a deficit and no money going toward [capital] improvements," he said.

Martin is now a member of the Water/Sewer Commission, along with Council President Steve Gamatoria. He said he is pleased with steps taken to make Fund 9 solvent, such as infrastructure improvements and plans to sell more water in surrounding communities — the city already sells water to Harford County.

"With the new administration, they actually were paying attention to what our volunteer committee was suggesting," he said.

Martin said he is seeking another term because "I hadn't finished" on his goals to make Fund 9 solvent, boosting the local economy with improvements to city parks and bringing in more people for recreation and promoting Havre de Grace as a city that supports healthy lifestyles.

"We have the park systems, we have biking trails, we have walking trails," he said.

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