Pittman's tran­si­tion lead­ers a good start for Anne Arun­del County ex­ec­u­tive-elect

The Capital - - OPINION -

If you judge a new ad­min­is­tra­tion by the peo­ple it sur­rounds it­self with, County Ex­ec­u­tive-elect Steuart Pittman just started off with a bang. Janet Owens and Chris Trum­bauer are two peo­ple who rep­re­sent the best of the Demo­cratic Party in Anne Arun­del.

Owens, of course, was the only woman elected as county ex­ec­u­tive — so far.

She was the po­lit­i­cal can­di­date no one as­sumed could win, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the county depart­ment of ag­ing who ran an un­suc­cess­ful bid for clerk of the court — against Bob Duck­worth, who is re­tir­ing this year af­ter 24 years on the job — be­fore an­nounc­ing a run for county ex­ec­u­tive.

She shocked the po­lit­i­cal peanut gallery in 1998 by un­seat­ing John Gary, a Repub­li­can with friends in the devel­op­ment com­mu­nity who many sus­pected would cruise to a con­tested, but pre­dictable win in No­vem­ber. Sound fa­mil­iar?

As a county ex­ec­u­tive, Owens gov­erned as a cen­ter-right Demo­crat, who had a rep­u­ta­tion for con­ser­va­tive pol­i­tics and a com­mit­ment to con­stituent ser­vice. Per­haps most im­por­tantly, she led the county through the 2000 gen­eral devel­op­ment plan up­date and the sub­se­quent com­pre­hen­sive re­zon­ing.

It was Owens who had teams of plan­ners sit down with 16 small area com­mit­tees for lengthy dis­cus­sions about growth, qual­ity of life and com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties. Those who took part look back on it as one of the best ex­am­ples of grass­roots gov­ern­ment.

That many of the rec­om­men­da­tions were sub­se­quently left out of the GDP and re­zon­ing, and that her suc­ces­sor aban­doned the model in 2010, didn't mat­ter. The con­cept is so em­bed­ded in the col­lec­tive mem­ory of Anne Arun­del's body politic that Pittman and his sup­port­ers were able to tap the con­cept as a ready al­ter­na­tive to County Ex­ec­u­tive Steve Schuh's plans for the process in 2020.

Owens dab­bled with a re­turn to pol­i­tics af­ter she left of­fice, but was never able to catch on at the state level. Yet her ten­ure re­mains one that many civic ac­tivists of a cer­tain age look back upon fondly.

Trum­bauer, mean­while, is the out­go­ing county coun­cil­man from An­napo­lis. Elected as an ac­com­plished en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, he opted to leave elected of­fice rather than go af­ter what many thought would be an easy reach for House of Del­e­gates.

More than any other coun­cil­man in the last eight years, Trum­bauer evolved in his time on the coun­cil. He be­came a re­spected voice on bud­get mat­ters and an ef­fec­tive leg­is­la­tor who was a role model for how to get along with those whose ideas seem di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to his own.

To­gether, they bring a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning county gov­ern­ment in a dif­fer­ent fash­ion than the out­go­ing ex­ec­u­tive. They have a record of putting into prac­tice the ideals that drove Pittman's suc­cess­ful cam­paign for ex­ec­u­tive: a gov­ern­ment that is re­spon­sive to ev­ery­one and not just those with in­sider ac­cess, a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to growth and devel­op­ment and — be­cause this is Anne Arun­del County — an eye on the bot­tom line.

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