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Business, military affairs professional James Estepp running for Anne Arundel County Council District 4 seat

James Estepp decided a long time ago he wasn’t going to run for office. After his father, M.H. Jim Estepp, ran and lost against Jack Johnson for Prince George’s County executive in the early 2000s, he decided running a campaign was too demanding and draining to be worthwhile.

“Seeing the toll it took on him, I decided that, though I enjoy and appreciate being able to chat with people, I’d rather work in and around the system as opposed to being an elected official,” Estepp said.

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But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the Odenton native saw the effect local government could have on helping residents through tough times, he decided he wanted to take his community service to a broader level and run for Andrew Pruski’s District 4 Anne Arundel County Council seat. Pruski, D-Gambrills, is term-limited and has not yet filed to run for any other office in 2022.

Estepp, a Democrat, currently serves as vice president of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable and the organization’s subsidiary Andrews Business & Community Alliance. The roundtable brings together business experts to work toward solving political, economic and community issues in Prince George’s County, and the alliance’s work is aimed at helping the Joint Base Andrews military personnel and the business community benefit from each other.

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Though he works in Prince George’s County, he has lived in Anne Arundel since 2005.

“The impacts of the pandemic and shutdowns and then personal health and family health have had on people, it’s an inspiring thing to want to make the change and be able to improve people’s lives when you see them at their lowest points,” Estepp said.

Through talking with community members on the campaign trail, Estepp started to get a sense that much of what District 4 residents care about is protecting public service workers.

“We have to cherish the people who have served for us,” Estepp said.

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He said he would do whatever he could to retain and aid the local veteran population, as well as urge military personnel to settle in Anne Arundel County once their service is over.

“I will most assuredly encourage folks who are separating from the service to call Anne Arundel their home,” he said. “You’re talking about nearly 60,000 veterans out there, so it’s a huge contingent of taxpayers in the county.”

He also said public safety is a big concern among neighbors he’s spoken with and applauded Pruski’s bill to extend a tax credit for Anne Arundel homeowners who work in public safety within the county.

“First responders mean a great deal to people,” Estepp said. “If you think about the work that fire and police and sheriff’s departments do, it is essential to make sure we’re looking out for them. Everything we hope to accomplish in our community — whether it’s a healthy economy, an effective education system, providing infrastructure that supports residents and neighborhoods, access to quality health care — none of it can happen unless people first feel safe in their homes and communities.”

He said residents also told him they were concerned about maintaining a strong network of teachers at local schools.

“I personally will assist in giving our teachers, administrators and support staff all the tools they need to help our students achieve,” said Estepp, a father of five. “It means a great deal to me and I have a huge stake in it personally, as well as for the community. The long-term success of the system needs to take place where we look at everything in the county. We can’t decide that someone’s ZIP code makes them more special than someone else or their family situation.”

Estepp said a lot of the issues brought to his attention can be solved partly through partnering the proper public and private community services.

“We get emails from schools and they tell us that teachers are paying out of pocket for supplies. That should never happen. If it’s not provided for by the county, then we should find partners, businesses, local folks in the community who will actually assist with that,” he said.

Estepp said he’s found these kinds of partnerships successful in his own work. He helped Prince George’s County generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue through a recycling partnership with Joint Base Andrews. Before the partnership, the base was paying to get its materials recycled elsewhere. He worked on a similar program with the county to eliminate food waste; food that was once being disposed of is now going to Prince George’s County food banks.

Though Estepp, 55, anticipates he may be one of the older candidates in the field, he said his experience and energy make him a good fit for the role.

“I have an engine that never stops running,” he said. “I have a 10-month-old, so I don’t need much sleep.”

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