Candidates seek to restore civility to Crofton board; Contestants to speak at a forum tonight


In a campaign with few issues, the candidates for Crofton's Civic Association board of directors are united on restoring civility to the board.

With the exception of contestants in the race for association president, which is becoming heated, candidates are running unopposed for the executive board and district offices.

Residents will get an opportunity to hear from the uncontested candidates and see presidential candidates Richard Trunnell and Patrick Dunbar square off at 7: 30 p.m. today at a forum at Crofton Elementary School. Elections are May 22.

Trunnell, a two-term board member representing District 5, said his experience and ability to work with others qualify him for the presidency. Dunbar, a member of the Crofton Athletic Council board, said Trunnell has not accomplished enough during his tenure.

"What separates us is community track record," Dunbar said yesterday. "He's in charge of maintenance, and we can't get flowers. I'm a doer. I'm going to pull people together. I believe this town wants and deserves new leadership."

But Trunnell said Dunbar has been absent from the most important community debates, including the campaign for a Crofton library. Although he signed up to speak about the library at County Council budget hearings last week, he was not present when the opportunity arrived.

"I'd like to have seen him at a board meeting once," Trunnell said. "It would've been nice if he'd been on a committee or even better if he'd ever served on the board."

The likely theme to resound in tonight's presentations from the uncontested candidates is a desire for peace on the board and preservation of community services. For many, those factors caused them to run.

"I really didn't like the way things were going," said Sharon Puckett, who's making her first run for the District 4 seat.

"Everybody loves Crofton. People just have different opinions about how things should run or look, and that's good," she said. "I just think we should be able to find the middle of the road." She was referring to the board's fighting.

The last two-year term was marked by vicious in-fighting and public criticisms that rattled residents and board members alike and marred the reputation of the usually serene suburban town. The board of directors of the civic association oversees civic affairs, such as running a farmers' market and a nearly $1 million special benefit tax district -- the largest in the county.

Board President Gayle Sears stood in the center of most debates, often publicly criticizing board decisions that she opposed and calling for county intervention in what some believed were community matters.

The police force and town hall services were questioned during budget negotiations as Sears and some residents called for hiring a security service and cutting spending on salaries and benefits for the town's employees in hopes of providing a tax break.

Several board members strongly opposed both ideas, and neither proposal went far, but the threat to community services and the board disharmony spurred some residents to contend for a seat.

"A lot of folks want to come back and instill confidence," said Ronald Burns, who is seeking his first term as District 5 representative. "My feeling is there needs to be a clean slate."

Trunnell, board Secretary Martin Simon, District 1 representative Steve Grimaud and District 3 representative John Hollywood hope to remain on the nine-member panel, with Simon serving as vice president and Hollywood as treasurer this term.

Of the other five candidates, Laurie Torene, running for secretary, and James Collett, running for the District 2 seat, have served on previous boards. Douglass Underhill, who heads the campaign for a Crofton library, is another newcomer to the race. He is running for the District 3 seat.

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