Havre de Grace election coming up features two running for mayor, five for three city council seats

With Havre de Grace's election just around the corner, on May 7, voters will get the chance to cast ballots for one of two mayoral candidates and three of five running for city council.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty, who is seeking a fourth term, is challenged by former city councilman Jim Miller.

In the city council races, incumbent members Randy Craig and John Correri are running for re-election. Also running are former councilman Fred Cullum and to newcomers to city politics, Bob Greene and Thomas Barnes.

A third incumbent council member whose term is up this year, Barbara Wagner, decided not to run for a second term, which means at least one of the challengers among Cullum, Greene and Barnes will be elected to a council seat. The mayor and council members serve two year terms, with half the six council seats up for election annually.

A debate organized by the city's Chamber of Commerce was held earlier this week and one was held at the Bulle Rock Residents Club Thursday night.

A debate will be held by the Ontario-Otsego Positive Action Committee on May 1, at 6:30 p.m., at City Hall.

Mayor's race

Dougherty, 65, has his signs up and says is happy with how the campaign is going.

"Things are going well, as far as that's concerned," he said about campaigning, adding that "it's great to live in a society" where residents have the chance to have a number of options.

Dougherty previously served on the city council beginning in the mid-1990s, withdrew from city politics briefly, and then won election to his first term as mayor in 2007. He was re-elected without opposition in 2009 and beat a single opponent handily in 2001.

Dougherty regards the position of mayor as a full-time job, according to the city's website.

The mayor graduated from Havre de Grace High School and has a degree in criminal justice and a banking degree from the American Institute of Banking. He served as a Harford County sheriff's deputy.

His opponent, Miller, 56, previously served on the city council until he was unseated in last year's city election.

Miller sent a written statement to The Record noting he has chaired several city committees or served on them and took actions like asking for an independent efficiency audit of the water and waste water treatment plants and looked into processes to try to lower the plants' operating costs.

He said Wednesday he has been meeting with people to discuss their concerns and has a few signs out. He was held a "meet and greet" at Coakley's Pub on Wednesday night.

"Things are going swimmingly and I am confident that things are going to work out the way I want," Miller said.

Miller said he pays close attention to the budget, questions expenses, believes in fair and equitable treatment for everyone and wants to bring transparency to city government.

"The back room deals have to stop. Open communications are essential. Secrets are not acceptable," he said.

In his statement, Miller also said he was the council representative on the city's planning commission, supports the police department and believes in tourism.

Council incumbents

Craig, 39, said he enjoys the budget process and looks forward to continuing to lower the property tax rate. The city council has approved decreases in the rate in recent years, which came in the aftermath of a substantial rate increase.

Craig was first elected to the council in 2007. He also served in the Navy after graduating from Havre de Grace High School and works for the Maryland Environmental Service.

Craig said he decided to run again after talking with his family, specifically his wife.

"I feel like we are doing good things there in the city and we are getting good things happening there," he said. "It's a tough time to be in local government."

Craig said he enjoys work and likes interacting with many different community organizations, from the Susquehanna Hose Company to the Lock House Museum.

"Our budget is not that big compared to the quality of services we have been able to give," he said.

Havre de Grace's budget has been a source of pride, he said.

"The evidence is there, that we have been lowering our finances, didn't have to furlough employees," he said.

Craig said he has been out talking to voters and attending a lot of events.

He thinks the race has been "fair" so far and said he was glad to see some new people step up to run.

While crime has been a "problem in spots," Craig said he has been happy to continue keeping the police department fully staffed.

Correri, 61, is running again after having been involved with city government since the mid-1970s, including two separate stints as acting mayor.

He said he will again "do my thing" by putting signs up and trying to talk with his friends and connections.

"I work fairly well with the current council and would like to continue working to make things better for Havre de Grace and the citizens, and I think things are going fairly well with all the circumstances around us and I think it's a good position," he said.

"As a senior member, it kind of works to my advantage with the present council," Correri added, saying he has respect for the other current members.

He noted the city plans to give residents another tax cut and would like to see that get passed.

He is also "keeping an eye on" several projects around town, notably planned renovations to the Opera House.

Council challengers

Barnes, 46, a newcomer to city politics, has been president of the city's Drama Guild after moving to Havre de Grace from Abingdon 10 years ago.

"I felt we needed to get a vision from the citizens instead of just the same old vision that's out there," he said in an earlier interview

Barnes is a U.S. Army veteran who previously worked in budget management for MCI Corporate and also managed operations at Hebestreit Communications and Cellular One.

He previously spoke proudly about being a foster and adoptive parent of two children who will be graduating from Havre de Grace High School, and he said he would like to focus more on family-oriented events in the city, giving families more options and activities.

He believes in fiscal responsibility, a sense of community, putting citizens first and "keeping it green," according to his website. Barnes would try to curb residential sprawl and shore up downtown "mom-and-pop" businesses.

His most prominent role, however, has been as founder of the Havre de Grace Drama Guild, which he has led for the past eight years.

Barnes said that and his experience with the Office on Aging has given him a lot of connections in the community. He also said it was important for him to get his message out, as a newcomer candidate. Barnes expects to put up door hangers this weekend, although he said a lack of donations in a tough economic climate has kept him from doing a full mail drop in Bulle Rock.

"So far, it's been a very positive experience," he said Thursday of the campaign. "Me and Bob, we are kind of like the fresh meat. It's really important for us to get our message out."

"Hopefully everything that I have done shows how much I love Havre de Grace," he said. 

Greene, 66, a retired businessman who lives in St. John Towers, is active in a variety of civic activities.

Greene said Thursday he has also been walking around talking to people and gotten in touch with a lot of people he has known over the years.

He said he wants Havre de Grace to be known for civility and is going to write to "people in Washington" to have the city recognized for its government.

"I am going to work to have Havre de Grace proclaimed the nation's capital for civility," he said.

He also said he intends to create a number of non-profits and foundations, and wanted his candidacy to emulate that of former president John F. Kennedy.

"Ask not what your city can do for you; ask what you can do for your city," he said.

Cullum, a Havre de Grace resident since 1968, retired in 2006 as a battalion chief from the Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department and has volunteered with the Susquehanna Hose Company since 1969.

He has been on the board of directors for the Maryland Municipal League and the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway.

Cullum, 63, said in previous interviews he has spent 16 years with the city council and said his experience played in to his decision to try to return.

"I think I still have a lot to offer," he said. "I think the city is in good shape financially."

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