Michael E. Bennett will take the center seat at City Hall tomorrow night when he is sworn in as the next mayor of Aberdeen.
Giving a preview of his administration, the former state trooper said he will be less involved in day-to-day activities than his predecessor and offered a different perspective on the unfinished initiatives that S. Fred Simmons leaves behind, such as the use of surveillance cameras, a desalination plant, and the city's ownership of Ripken Stadium.
"He [Simmons] had a lot of great ideas," Bennett, 59, said Friday. "I think it was just a matter of how they were presented. I would never say that his two years in office was a bust."
While Simmons was a visible figure in crime-fighting efforts, taking daily walks in the rougher neighborhoods and accompanying police on raids, Bennett said he prefers to let officers do the policing. While crime in Aberdeen dropped last year, according to the Maryland Uniform Crime Report, some critics complained that the city's policing tactics were too aggressive.
"Militaristic beat-down tactics, I don't approve of that," Bennett said. "You only use force to overcome the amount being used against you. ... There are procedures for doing search warrants and sometimes you have to beat down doors."
The surveillance camera project will require further examination, he said. Rotating surveillance cameras have been installed at two troubled intersections - on Edmund and Washington streets, and East Bel Air and Aberdeen avenues. Earlier this year, the council passed legislation that gave the city authority to require cameras in new commercial and residential developments.
"I question the validity of the surveillance system, if no one is there to look at what's going on," Bennett said. "... The bottom line is: It'll be looked at. If it has validity, we'll use it in the right context."
Bennett has similar thoughts about the desalination project, which aims to remove salt from Chesapeake Bay water so it can be used to supply the city. He expressed concern about the project, pointing out that a desalination plant in San Diego was shelved after several million dollars was invested.
Ripken Stadium should remain in the city's hands, he said. He hopes to form partnerships with the county government and other communities to see whether the city can get financial help, as Aberdeen has $6.7 million in stadium-related debt and millions of dollars in interest, on a payment schedule stretching to 2022.
Bennett said he plans to create committees of volunteers to prepare for expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground and to form the city's five-year plan. The committees would be open to non-residents.
"Just because Aberdeen has boundaries, it doesn't mean people that live outside those of boundaries aren't affected," Bennett said. "They're intimately tied to that and they're intimately involved in issues that goes on."
After packing up his belongings at City Hall Thursday, Simmons headed south on his motorcycle. He will not be at the swearing-in ceremony tomorrow.
"It's like when you catch a fish, you don't throw it in the cooler and leave it on the bench," Simmons said in a phone interview Friday as he traveled through Virginia. "I've pretty much not left anything on the table. I did what I wanted to do. I'm not going to be sitting up there like the fish on the bench."
Simmons said he is at peace with the election results and plans to pursue projects he put on hold during his tenure as mayor.
"I'll fly more. I'll ride more," he said. "I'm going to do business deals and I'm not going to lay on that bench gasping for air - as much as a group of people would like to see me do that."
Not her time
Unlike Kyle Corbin of Union, Ore., and Michael Sessions of Hillsdale, Mich., Nicole V. Burlew will not join the ranks of America's teenage mayors.
During her campaign, her friends and professors referred to her as Madame Mayor. But the 19-year-old Towson University sophomore barely caused a ripple in the mayor's race, garnering only 7 percent of the votes.
With 187 votes, she had the least of all the candidates, including the 10 City Council hopefuls. While her candidacy attracted a flurry of television and media interviews, her platform, which included assessing fees for non-residents who have jobs in the city, never gained traction with voters.
Aberdeen election results
Michael E. Bennett: 1,373
S. Fred Simmons: 942*
Nicole V. Burlew: 187
CITY COUNCIL(Top four vote-getters elected to council)
Ruth Elliott: 1,535*
Ronald Kupferman: 1,167*
Ruth Ann Young: 1,007
Michael G. Hiob: 952*
Bernard DeWitt: 900
Richard R. Denu Jr.: 862
Bruce E. Garner: 731
David A. Yensan: 705*
Janice East Moorehead Grant: 435
Alfred E. Bell Jr.: 339* -- incumbent
Registered voters: 8,018
Ballots cast at the polls: 2,435
Absentee ballots: 68
Provisional ballots: 23
Total ballots cast: 2,526
Turnout: 31.5 percent
The winners, who will serve two-year terms, will be sworn in 6 p.m. tomorrow at City Hall.
Bel Air election results
In Tuesday's election, seven candidates ran for the three available seats on the Board of Town Commissioners. The official results:
*Terence O. Hanley: 620
Edward Hopkins III: 533
**Robert J. Reier: 360
Patrick T. Richards: 272
Richard R. Davis: 268
James M. Decker: 240
John W. Janowich: 137* -- incumbent
** -- elected after being appointed to vacancy last year
Registered voters: 6,454
Ballots cast at polls: 896
Absentee ballots: 22
Provisional ballots: 1
Total ballots cast: 919
Turnout: 15 percent
The winners will be sworn in Nov. 19 and the five commission members will vote on a chairman.