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Councilmen Point Fingers in Quest To Fill Vacancy

Some Anne Arundel County councilmen lay the blame for a split vote on party politics.

Many Anne Arundel County councilmen claim a political game is being played over the vacant District 1 seat at the expense of the district's constituents.

Patch editors interviewed each of the six councilmen to gauge their position in the division over who should fill the District 1 seat. The final candidates are  and .

The councilmen who have supported Wagner include Derek Fink (R-3rd District) of Pasadena, John Grasso (R-2nd District) of Glen Burnie and Dick Ladd (R-5th District) of Broadneck

Smith's supporters include Chris Trumbauer (D-6th District) of Annapolis, Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) of Crownsville and Jerry Walker (R-7th District) of Gambrills.

Wagner's backers have primarily touted his experience and criticized Smith for his lack of political experience. Fink said Wagner's history as a public official was a plus moving into budget season.

"We are getting ready to face the budget, and he has been there before," Fink said. "He has dealt with the state budget before."

Grasso has said that he likes Smith, but not as the District 1 candidate.

"If I was picking someone to run the quarter-mile, or do pushups, I would choose Smith all day," Grasso said.

Wagner isn't the only one with budget experience. Smith has balanced sizable budgets in his work as a resource manager with the federal government, Trumbauer said.

"His attachment to the military will serve the area well as we deal with the challenges and opportunities associated with [Base Realignment and Closure]," Trumbauer said. 

Walker made it clear that he believes there are political games at work behind his colleagues' support of Wagner.

"The north county machine wants a political insider for the joint purpose of advancing their personal agendas and supporting their candidate should the county executive seat become vacant," Walker said.

Walker's sentiment was echoed by Trumbauer, who said District 1 constituents should not "be used as leverage for other councilmen's political agendas." Benoit said Wagner's supporters "are being influenced by other Republican politicians who have their eye on the county executive's seat."

It's nearly two months since District 1 had a representative. Grasso said that although the council is divided, the fault lays at Jones' feet for getting them into this situation.

"The only ones that have something to squawk about are the people in District 1," Grasso said. "But in reality it's the people in District 1 that voted a criminal in. It's not our fault."

With Jones now out of office, Grasso said District 1 constituents now actually have better representation.

"Some might say the folks in District 1 ... are having taxation without representation. That's the biggest crock of crap. It's six people all working for them. They're getting six bangs for their buck. They're getting away with the devil in this deal," he said. 

Fink said someone is needed to represent the district, but Ladd said he thinks they can make it through budget season without a seventh member.

"Is it desirable? No. I’m not sure that putting a seventh person in there will be any easier," Ladd said.

Walker said they may make it through this year's budget, but the lack of a seventh member would hinder any budget changes.

"We can make it through, but I have a feeling it will be difficult to get to four votes on many of the budget changes without a seventh person," Walker said.

is available here.

CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this article incorrectly stated that Jones' seat has been vacant for three months. Patch regrets the error.

Severna Park Patch editor Leslie Hunt, Glen Burnie Patch editor , Odenton Patch editor , Greater Annapolis Patch editor , Edgewater Patch editor , and Pasadena Patch editor  contributed to this story.

JPineiro March 19, 2012 at 12:25 PM
There are people who are mentally challenged, and there are people that are retarded… Grasso is retarded. The fact that he would openly state that Smith only has physical attributes and would serve no other purpose than to crank out some push-ups makes him borderline retarded. A look at Smith’s resume would indicate the qualities that are necessary for him to serve as a councilmember. Additionally, there were many candidates who were considered and Smith is currently in a tie with Wagner who has a strong political and business background. If Smith was only good for physical activities, he wouldn’t be a final candidate in the first place. Smith was stationed at Ft. George G. Meade as part of a command that works with the National Security Agency which has some of the brightest minds on the planet. You have to be in the top 5th percentile of your field, to even earn the right to be at that duty station. Furthermore, Smith was selected to undergo the extremely difficult process of Officer Candidate Selection in the Marine Corps and succeeded to become a highly respected Marine Corps Officer. This takes a lot more brain than brawn, but I doubt you would know anything about that Mr. Grasso.
JPineiro March 19, 2012 at 12:25 PM
This brings me to councilman Ladd who apparently feels it is politically acceptable to refer to the Asian community as “gooks” because we all know there are no Asians in Anne Arundel County. He is a representative of the people, yet this is the garbage that excretes from his mouth? I’m surprised he doesn’t have racial moniker for Smith as well.
JPineiro March 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Wagner hasn’t been in this side of politics for almost two decades. This is not like riding a bicycle, but more like riding a motorcycle after knowing how to ride a bicycle. The political landscape has changed and there needs to be someone who is up to speed with current problems and has a fresh idea how to solve them, not apply old methods that apparently don’t seem to be working. Wagner has no intentions of pursuing another opportunity in 2014. This is a patch in the flat government tire. You need consistency and someone who is willing to see this through. Someone that can guarantee you mileage on that long trip you’re about to take. You need sustainment and staying power. This isn’t the quarter-mile (which apparently Smith is good at running) but more like a half-marathon. Wagner lists his top three priorities as education, community safety, and the budget. Smith has a Bachelor’s degree to Wagner’s Associate’s and is working on a Master’s. He has a daughter attending Jessup Elementary School which means that her future is paramount as well as those around her. By Smith earning higher education degrees and being currently in the higher educational system, he has the ability to have first-hand knowledge of what skills are necessary to make it to college as well is stay there until completion.
JPineiro March 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
As far as community safety goes, I think the Marine Corps background as well as Smith’s upbringing brings a high-caliber insight and a fresh perspective as to how to make the communities safe. Raising kids in the same communities allow for a deeper level of desire to ensure that safety is paramount. As far as the budget goes, we have already discussed Smith’s current role. Additionally, successfully raising more than $50,000 for the Toys for Tots program is no small feat as I can attest due to my involvement with the program in many capacities since 1991. This would help approximately 26,000 kids in the region which is more than you can fathom. The political experience that Wagner touts is not mandatory as exemplified by current Pasadena Republican Councilman Fink, who is now the council chairman, is a year younger than Smith, and had never held an elected office before 2010. Wagner states that you need to “get along with the people” yet a life in the Marine Corps is nothing but diplomacy at every level. Lastly, I can’t ignore Wagner’s admittance to trying to give Ladd money at the Republican’s fundraiser a day before the council vote. Ladd still voted for Wagner as the intention was still there regardless of the fact that Ladd refused the money.
JPineiro March 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Stop blaming lack of political experience when everyone knows that little to none of the current population has even an iota of trust and faith in their government as is. This simply boils down to one huge factor. Smith has something politicians don’t have, and some councilmembers fear… integrity. Smith has too much integrity for the position. He will not side with what is right and what the people want, and not what type of political leverage it will provide other councilmembers who put their own future ambitions ahead of what serves the people. Anne Arundel has large diverse communities and a large military population both of which stand to benefit from a candidate like Smith. They need someone that can speak their language and understand their needs. Smith is the right choice and everyone knows it.

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