Register of wills race draws five contenders


With no incumbent seeking re-election for the county's register of wills for the first time in more than three decades, four Republicans are seeking the party's nomination.

Francis X. Walsh, a Westminster lawyer who came in second in the 1998 Republican primary election for register of wills, has been endorsed by the current officeholder, Nancy L. Airing.

After seven years in the post, and 25 years working in the office, Airing, 64, decided to step down. She took over the job, which is the equivalent of the clerk of the Orphans' Court, when Reese L. Starner died in office in 1995, soon after being elected to an eighth term.

Also running as Republicans are: Paul G. Zimmerman, 48, of Westminster, a former assistant county attorney in Carroll who now holds the same post in Frederick County; William E. Burton, 62, of Sykesville, a professional auditor now under contract to the county, and Sue Ellen Greenfield, 36, of Westminster, a former accountant and now full-time homemaker.

Zimmerman, a lawyer for 20 years, said he became a candidate because he has the skills the job requires. "I saw the qualifications of the people that had signed up," he said, "and I felt my qualifications are a much better match for the position." He has worked in Frederick for the past eight years, handling a variety of administrative law issues such as zoning appeals and violations, liquor board and ethics violations.

Previous experience

Previously, he worked for five years for the state in Baltimore at the Board of Appeals for unemployment insurance, after serving six years in Carroll as an assistant county attorney.

Walsh, 63, has been a Carroll resident since 1977, and has previously been a candidate in General Assembly races. He maintains a law practice in Westminster and has specialized in estate work for 31 years.

"Something attracts me to it," he said. "It's mathematical to some extent. It has to come out evenly. It's not like divorce or criminal work, with a lot of anguish and grief."

Greenfield has been a member of the Republican Central Committee since 1998, and since 1995 has served on the county's housing review board, which considers appeals in landlord-tenant disputes.

She worked as accountant at Carroll Lutheran Village for three years before leaving to care for her five children. She said she became interested in the Orphans' Court a few years ago, after her grandmother died.

"I realized my skills fit perfectly: strong organization, the ability to treat people in a kind and pleasant way," she said.

Burton has been an auditor for 35 years, 26 of them in the Office of the Inspector General for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. He moved to Carroll in 1986 and worked for several local business and the county government until retiring again in 2000. He now is under contract to the county's Office of Performance Auditing, which, he said, involves guarding against "fraud and waste, and safeguarding resources, following rules."

John Lockard Barnes is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for register of wills.

While the 1998 election saw eight Republican candidates for three judges seats on the Orphans' Court, this year's primary election has only one Republican challenger to the three Republican incumbents.

Incumbents challenged

Peggy T. Gordon, 75, of Sykesville, said she is running for a seat on the court because she is dismayed by a 12-year struggle over her mother's estate that tore her family apart.

"If I can just clean up that court, that would make me happy," said Gordon, a real estate agent. "I know I can't decide about my mother's estate, but I'd like to see that it didn't happen to anyone else again - or at least for the next four years."

Dorothy V. "Dottie" Utz, 75, of Westminster, serves as the chief judge and is seeking a third term on the court - which oversees the settling of estates.

The judges, who need not be lawyers, meet twice a week, Mondays and Tuesday. "We have to go by the law, go by the will - and good common sense," said Utz, who retired as a general manager for Admiral Cleaners before seeking election in 1994.

Up for a second term is Herbert J. Reisig Sr., 66, of Finksburg, a retired FBI agent with a law degree from the University of Baltimore. As president of the Maryland Association of Orphans' Court Judges, he oversees two training sessions a year for new judges.

Reisig, a member of the National College of Probate Judges, also serves on an advisory board to the General Assembly regarding legislation on estates and trusts.

Incumbent John David Carbaugh, 69, who lives northwest of Westminster, was appointed by the governor last year to complete the term of the late Walter T. Haines Jr.

Carbaugh retired in 1996 as a publicist for the Dairy Farmers of America, and now works part time as a real estate agent for state Sen. Larry E. Haines, who encouraged him to run in 1988, he said.

George E. Maloney is the lone Democratic candidate for the position.

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