A freshly paved road would normally be a good thing for a candidate seeking re-election.
But Baltimore County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire recently faced a dozen residents of the Sparks area of the county who were upset that a resurfaced road had a gritty finish and uneven edges.
"I see what you mean," McIntire told the Loveton Farms residents. He promised to ask the county to come up with a better system of notifying communities of such projects in the future, and the highway officials he had brought along said they would take another look at the work in the spring.
For McIntire, the visit to untangle a problem is not unlike many others he has made in his 12 years on the County Council. But as he runs for a fourth term, he's being opposed by a businessman who says the time has come for a change.
"It's time to hand the reins over," said Michael J. Wagner, who lives in Phoenix and works for an Internet security firm.
With no Democratic candidates for the 3rd District council seat, the Republican primary race between McIntire and Wagner will determine who represents the district for the next four years.
The district covers the rural, northern half of the county, including Cockeysville, Hunt Valley, Parkton and part of Reisterstown,
McIntire, 76, a retired lawyer from Glyndon who refers to himself as a preservationist, is the sole Republican on the seven-member County Council.
Wagner, 53, has never before sought public office but said he decided to enter the race just before the filing deadline in part because no one else was running against McIntire.
"I don't see Mr. McIntire being proactive, engaging people in solutions," he said. "I'm a motivated person. You identify the problem, engage the right resources and execute a solution."
Wagner, who is married with two grown children and two grandchildren, says there are several pressing issues, including the need for more playing fields for youth sports teams, in the 325-square-mile district.
"We don't have enough fields, and I think there are places we could put them," says Wagner, who has coached soccer and helped his son coach lacrosse and soccer teams for the Hereford Recreation Council. Some teams rent private land to practice and play games.
"I think if the county were picking up the tab to rent fields, they'd be saying, 'Why are we renting? Why don't we buy something?'"
He had approached McIntire with the idea of creating a "mini state park" that might include an ATV track, a rock-climbing wall, paintball course and other recreation areas - an idea that he says has been misconstrued. "I'm not trying to bring a NASCAR facility to the district," said Wagner.
Wagner also said he's concerned about school crowding and suggests that the level at which a school is considered above capacity be lowered. He also said more attention should be paid to older commercial areas.
"What's the job of a county councilman? It's infrastructure," said Wagner, who has contacted regular primary voters by mail and by phone over the summer.
But he's raised very little money in his bid to unseat McIntire, who had $287,700 in his campaign account in mid-August.
McIntire says he has preserved open space though zoning changes that restrict housing density. In the process he estimates he has helped eliminate 4,000 home sites since 1994.
"I'm one of these crazy environmentalists that people make fun of," McIntire said.
McIntire also said he's proud of legislation that requires council approval for the sale of county land and legislation that restricts cell towers. "I didn't want our open country peppered with these towers," said McIntire, who is married with five grown children and five grandchildren.
He said he's still working on finding more park space in the district so children can participate in sports without having to leave the county. And he says that deer will probably have to be hunted to prevent further deterioration of the Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs.
In the spring, McIntire surprised some members of the council and administration when he proposed a tax-credit program for seniors and then timed the council's vote on the legislation so that council members could vote on it the same night they considered a tax credit program for those on fixed incomes proposed by Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.
In the end, the council opted to combine some aspects of Smith's program with the proposal by McIntire and Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr., who had been working on a similar proposal and became a co-sponsor on the bill. The combination of the two programs spread about $1.3 million in credits to about 9,000 seniors and residents on fixed incomes.
Sun reporter Josh Mitchell contributed to this article.