Chad Shrodes got his wish when he was elected to the Harford County Council, but it cost him his job.
While the Republican boasted that his experience as a county planner would help him as a councilman, conflict of interest rules prohibited him from holding both positions. So when he was sworn in at the beginning of the year as an elected official, he became temporarily unemployed.
For the past three months, Shrodes has used the free time to delve into concerns lodged by residents in his district, which stretches from Jarrettsville to Dublin. He has visited North Harford Middle School multiple times in recent weeks to address complaints about maintenance problems, and crafted amendments to a bill governing exemptions to the county's impact fee.
But Shrodes landed on his feet last week when he received a real estate license and joined a local branch of Long & Foster. He said he's learning the ropes with a team of real estate agents.
"I'll be broke for a little while," he joked after Tuesday's council meeting.
Not that his council salary didn't come close to matching his annual paycheck as a member of the county Planning Department. Harford's council members receive $31,000 annually - the lowest in the Baltimore region.
As a planner, Shrodes made $40,664 last year, county officials said. Before that he spent 10 years working in planning for the state.
Had he won elected office in a neighboring county, he'd be making more: Baltimore County Council members, the highest-paid in the region, get $54,000. In Howard County, which is comparable in population size to Harford, council members approved last year a whopping 49 percent increase and receive a $49,000 annual salary.
Harford County is expected to receive an additional $4.5 million from the state for school construction, bringing its total to $16.5 million.
Gov. Martin O'Malley committed $400 million to school construction this year, and county officials increased their expectations to match. They sought about $60 million, far more than last year's $17 million request.
County Council President Billy Boniface said he was pleased with this year's take, but added that a grim state budget outlook could require creative solutions next year. Harford's senators - Republicans J. Robert Hooper and Nancy Jacobs - have balked at the council's efforts to raise the county transfer tax a half-percentage point to 1.5 percent and repeal the impact fee.
The transfer tax is applied to real estate sales; the impact fee is levied on developers when new homes are built. Council members say the impact fee has not performed to expectations and approved a resolution asking county legislators to seek the change.
A 1.5 percent transfer tax would put Harford County in exclusive company: Only Prince George's and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City have a transfer tax above 1 percent.
The council approved a round of new executive appointments last week - usually a slam-dunk - but held off on two selections to the personnel advisory board.
County Executive David R. Craig, with the council's unanimous approval, appointed Robert M. Mumby, president of the Harford County Republican Club, to the Board of Estimates, which reviews county spending and contracts, and J. Robert Tibbs, a farmer from Level, to the Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board.
While the council approved the appointment of Michael Daney, an attorney and chairman of the Darlington/Dublin Community Association, to the county's personnel advisory board, it held off on re-appointing Lachelle Scarlato, a real estate agent, and former Republican Del. Sheryl Davis Kohl to the same board because they did not complete their financial disclosure forms.
Val Twanmoh, a Democrat who failed in a third try for a council seat representing Fallston and Abingdon, will serve as people's counsel for another two years.