The Baltimore region’s three new county executives began transitioning from campaign mode to governing on Wednesday, one day after scoring strong Democratic victories in the suburbs.
Steuart Pittman, who knocked off incumbent Republican Executive Steve Schuh in Anne Arundel County with 52 percent of the vote, named co-chairs of his transition team: former County Executive Janet S. Owens and outgoing County Councilman Chris Trumbauer.
Pittman, 57, acted with a sense of urgency, given that he — and the other new executives — will be sworn into office in less than a month, on Dec. 3. He said he actually selected Owens and Trumbauer to lead the effort a couple of days before the election; the three met Wednesday to discuss their next steps.
“I’m all about the next 30 days,” Pittman said. “There is not much time. We are going to get moving quickly.”
Baltimore County’s executive-elect, Johnny Olszewski Jr., spent his day savoring his win and thanking voters before getting deep into the work of setting up a transition team. On only a few hours’ of sleep, he stood on a busy road in Towson Wednesday morning waving to commuters. In the afternoon, he was in his hometown of Dundalk, repeating the effort.
Acknowledging the regional success, Olszewski congratulated his fellow Democratic county executives-elect: Pittman in Anne Arundel and Calvin Ball in Howard County.
“I’m thrilled for Calvin and Steuart and I think they’re going to be fantastic leaders and great regional partners,” he said, adding he hopes the three can join with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman “to drive progress in the Baltimore metro region.”
Olszewski, 36, won with 57 percent of the vote over Republican Al Redmer Jr. He said Wednesday it was too early to talk about his transition plans or personnel changes in county government.
“Both because I was focused on the election, and didn’t think it would be right to be presumptuous, we hadn’t started any official transition work,” Olszewski said in an interview. “That work will begin in earnest tomorrow.”
Olszewski said there’s plenty of time, even with the swearing-in looming in less than four weeks. He declined to say who would lead his transition team or what its goals would be, but said he planned to work with outgoing County Executive Don Mohler as part of the process — and hoped to talk soon with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who sailed to re-election on Tuesday.
“The transition process will be transparent and open,” Olszewski said. “We’re planning to invite public comment and to have many talented individuals be a part of it.”
One of the biggest challenges Olszewski will face in Baltimore County is balancing budget constraints against spending needs for new schools and water and sewer infrastructure. An advisory committee warned earlier this year that the government is approaching its limit on how much money it can borrow, while potentially not putting enough money aside in savings.
In Howard County, Ball ousted Republican County Executive Allan Kittleman with 52 percent of the vote, and will be the county’s first black county executive.
Of the three newly elected executives, Ball has the most familiarity with his county’s government. He’s been a member of the Howard County Council since 2006. Kittleman congratulated Ball in person on election night.
Ball, 43, has been short on specifics about issues he plans to tackle immediately after he’s sworn in. He emphasized education programs and spending in his campaign, and said he’ll review options for schools, businesses, development, transportation, public safety and the environment.
Once in office, Ball will be faced with taking over the county’s $50 million plan to mitigate flooding in Historic Ellicott City following two deadly floods.
He voted against the funding as a councilman, saying it didn’t address all of his concerns. He has declined to say if he’ll follow through on the plan that Kittleman supported to have the county buy and demolish 13 buildings on Main Street that are susceptible to flooding.
All three executives have key decisions to make as they prepare to take over the workings of county governments that serve hundreds of thousands of residents. They’ll need to decide who will staff their executive offices and which department heads and public safety chiefs to keep or replace.
Pittman in Anne Arundel and Ball in Howard will be taking over for Republicans, potentially leading to significant staff changes. Olszewski has promised changes in Baltimore County’s government, but the top officials are all veterans of one or more of the Democratic administrations that have led the county for nearly a quarter century.
While all three declined to discuss potential personnel changes, it’s something that’s likely top of their mind, said John Dedie, coordinator of political science at the Community College of Baltimore County. He said personnel decisions need to be handled carefully.
“The one thing you always have to do is get your people in place,” Dedie said. The campaign staffs will need to make sure that appointees “don’t have any ethical issues or anything that pops up.”
Dedie said it’s also a good idea for new executives to take some time to thank voters, to build goodwill as they head into their official duties.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Chase Cook and Erin B. Logan contributed to this article.