Longtime Baltimore County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz pledged Tuesday to boost law enforcement, improve education and strengthen the county's business climate if elected county executive this year.
Kamenetz, a Democrat, ended months of what he said was listening to and learning from constituents with a formal announcement in Randallstown, a setting that reflected the support he hopes to gain from the county's large African-American community.
"I want to lead this county and make the right decisions for the right reasons and make sure they are decisions that will last generations," said Kamenetz, 52. "I am running because I care deeply."
Kamenetz will face fellow council Democrat Joseph Bartenfelder in a primary for the open seat. Current Executive James T. Smith Jr. leaves office at the end of his second term in December.
Bartenfelder, who did not attend Kamenetz's event, said Tuesday he will make his own formal announcement nex week. Former Del. Kenneth C. Holt is seeking the GOP nomination.
Kamenetz arrived at the Randallstown Community Center Tuesday morning in a bus decorated with flags and posters promoting "KevinForTheCounty."
Before he went to the podium, he ushered two longtime community leaders to their seats. John McPhaul, 83, watched Kamenetz grow up and then worked with him for 25 years on issues involving the Liberty Road corridor.
"Kevin knows how to get things done," McPhaul said.
Emily Wolfson, 88, said she would support Kamenetz. "The political sector defines the quality of our lives and the county executive's decisions directly affect each citizen of this county," she said.
Kamenetz, a former county prosecutor, said he would give "police the tools to fight crime." He also pledged to "aggressively strengthen existing businesses and work to attract more."
He won the longest applause for his stand on "a strong school system where the ZIP code does not determine the quality of education."
He asked for the crowd's support "so that we can achieve our great future together." Several politicians attended his announcement, though some said they were not ready to declare their support.
"He is a good guy and an excellent candidate," said Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat who is still undecided in whom he is backing in the race. "This is the political season, when everybody goes to everything."
But state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Democrat who is one of the county's leading African-American officials, did not hold back in her introduction to the candidate.
"I am here to ordain an important run," she said. "Kevin Kamenetz knows how government works, how to balance the budget and how to take care of our schools and our seniors. He will do the people's work for the next four years."
After the announcement, Kamenetz and his wife, Jill, drove to the county Board of Elections in Catonsville, where he filed papers for his candidacy.
From there, the couple and an entourage wearing purple T-shirts with "Kamenetz" in bright yellow letters traveled to Dundalk. Among the riders was Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., who has endorsed Kamenetz.
"I have seen his leadership ability for 12 years," Olszewski said. "He is the right person to lead the entire county."