Calvin Ball, who has served 12 years on the Howard County Council, was sworn in on Monday as the first black person to hold the office of Howard County Executive.
Last month, Ball, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Allan Kittleman by 5.7 percentage points. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, won Howard by 13.6 points in his successful bid for re-election. Ball represented District 2, which includes Oakland Mills and Columbia, on the county council.
The most pressing issues Ball will immediately grapple with are crafting the county’s $1.6 billion operating budget and whether his administration will halt his predecessor’s $50 million plan to mitigate flooding in historic Ellicott City.
Ball, in his installation speech, emphasized that he represents all of Howard including “Ellicott City who will not be defined by floods but who, with me as your champion, will become a national model for safety, strength, and resilience.” The inaugural event was held in Howard High School’s very full 750-seat auditorium and attended by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Attorney General Brian Frosh, Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Howard Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano former executives James Robey and Kittleman.
In an interview after the ceremony, Ball said he plans to address funding for education and flood mitigation in Ellicott City in this upcoming budget cycle. Ball declined to say when he will announce his plans to mitigate flooding in the historic mill town.
Throughout the campaign, Ball pinned himself an opponent of portions of the Ellicott City flood mitigation plan. As councilman, Ball voted against the three bills that would have partially funded projects because his amendments, which he believed would address shortfalls, were not included, he previously said in an email.
Ball after his victory said he intends to keep the timeline of upstream projects but will evaluate the portion that requires acquiring and razing 10 buildings on lower Main Street. The demolition is opposed by some residents and Preservation Maryland who fears the move will tarnish the aura of the historic district.
Ball will not say if he the county under his administration will acquire the properties or demolish the buildings.
During his speech, Ball committed to “create a more business-friendly environment of economic growth that promotes local businesses while fighting for private sector jobs that pay a living wage.”
In a November interview, Ball said he believes addressing the minimum wage should be done at a state level to eliminate potential competition for businesses between counties.
Ball in his address touted his campaign promise of addressing school overcrowding. “I know that together, we can make progress on building much needed schools while redistricting in a way that keeps neighborhoods together,” he said.
Ball last week announced the people who will make up his inner circle, which includes Lonnie Robbins as chief administrative officer. Robbins, who in 2004 was appointed deputy chief administrative officer by former Executive James Robey, a two-term Democrat, and was promoted to his current position by Ken Ulman, another Democrat who served two terms. He was retained by Kittleman and now, Ball. Robbins makes $233,929.28 per year.
Ball will make $195,800 annually — $12,240 more than his predecessor. The pay increase is courtesy of legislation passed by the former County Council.
The event also saw the installation of a wholly new, Democrat-majority County Council.
Sworn in Monday were Councilwoman Liz Walsh, whose district includes Ellicott City; Opel Jones, whose district includes Oakland Mills and Columbia; Christiana Rigby, whose district includes Savage and Guilford; Deb Jung, whose district includes the five Columbia villages and parts of Clarksville; and David Yungmann, the lone Republican whose district includes the western portion of the county.
Rigby was unanimously confirmed by her colleagues to serve as chairperson. Jones was unanimously confirmed to be vice-chair. Walsh was confirmed to serve as chairperson of the zoning board and Rigby as vice-chair. Jung as license commissioner and Yungmann as vice-chair.
The rookie politicians last month attend a five-day orientation where they were trained on the government processes, ethics and council procedures, according to two councilmen who attended the sessions.
“I would not be standing here if it were not for the abundant faith, trust, and support of so many,” Ball said. “Together, we can build a community that continues to be a model for diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.
During the speech Ball thanked Kittleman for his service. The motion was greeted with a standing ovation and a boisterous applause.
Ball was introduced by his wife Shani, who said he wants to “make this county a shining example of what our country inspires to be.”
The ceremony saw a prayer by Craig Axler, a rabbi at Temple Isaiah, who in his invocation prayed “that each of these men and woman embrace this power and responsibility with those of building a more just society.”
“May all of this and so much more come to fruition,” Axler added.