After months of uncertainty, the Howard County Council has unanimously chosen James R. "Pat" Patterson, the retired owner of the former PJ's restaurant on Main Street in Ellicott City, to sit on the county's five-member Board of Appeals.
Patterson, 64, a Republican who backed Democrat James N. Robey for county executive in 1998, will be formally nominated in June, council Chairman Mary C. Lorsung said, and the council will vote on the choice in July. Because the five-member County Council unanimously selected Patterson in a closed meeting Tuesday, the formal vote is expected to confirm that choice.
Patterson would succeed fellow Republican Jerry L. Rushing of Savage, who will continue serving until Patterson is confirmed. Rushing had applied to keep the post, but he withdrew his application before the final choice was made, officials said.
The move to replace Rushingcaused some debate. He was criticized by some slow-growth advocates in his part of the county because he is a home builder, while several County Council members wanted a better geographic distribution on the board. Councilman C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, defended Rushing as a fair and good board member who deserved to be reappointed.
Ten people, including Rushing, applied for the board, which decides appeals of land-use issues and administrative decisions as the last step before cases are filed in Circuit Court. Of the applicants, four Democrats were disqualified because the law allows no more than three majority party members.
Because Patterson lives in Ellicott City, in the 1st Council District, his selection means that the board again will have one member from each of the five districts, a goal of several members.
"That traditionally has been the way it is," Lorsung said. "We were definitely looking for someone from the Ellicott City district."
She said appointees don't need to be lawyers or professionally tied to the land development business. "The feeling is that it's as important to know the county," Lorsung added.
Patterson, who finished last among six candidates for Orphans' Court judge two years ago, sold his restaurant last year. He said he is retired but is seeking "new challenges, new things." He plans to use the time between now and July, he said, to sit in on board meetings and learn how the panel works.
Although a Prince George's County resident until six years ago, Patterson has been active for years in Howard community and business groups. He had owned the restaurant since 1976.
"I've always been around politics," he said.
He is undaunted by his lack of professional government or land-use experience.
"Sometimes I think there are too many lawyers," he said.