In his 16-year tenure, Harford County Councilman John W. Schaefer established a record of dependable public service, particularly in handling constituent problems. Yet in last week's primary he was resoundingly beaten by Theresa Pierno, a first-time candidate.
Ms. Pierno ran on a vocal growth management platform, having spearheaded a drive against the controversial Windsor Mall. She is a symbol of Harford residents' unhappiness with the changes that have taken place in their county during the past decade's rapid growth. Shopping centers now stand where cows grazed just a few years ago; townhouses fill other meadows.
Many Harford countians do not like that. They fear they will lose their quality of life and semi-rural environment for such urban ills as congestion, sprawl and crime.
Ms. Pierno, who moved to Harford from New Jersey, also illustrates the transition that is occurring in Harford politics. Old political names still abound, but relative newcomers are planting activist roots.
Ms. Pierno's race was not the only one which was decided on the basis of the growth issue.
Councilwoman Barbara A. Risacher was an attractive and knowledgeable candidate for county executive. But in her campaign against Eileen M. Rehrmann she carried the burden of having flip-flopped on a vote on Windsor Mall. Ms. Risacher's perceived indecisiveness on a major development controversy cost her the nomination by a margin few had anticipated.
Will the primary election results change the dynamics of Harford politics? Perhaps. Consider the following: the incumbent Democratic sheriff was unseated. And Del. William H. Cox Jr. barely managed to hang to his seat in Annapolis despite his reputed political organization and clout throughout the county.
County Executive Habern W. Freeman Jr.'s convincing victory for District 34 Senate seat blunted the comeback bid of William S. James, one of the finest public servants in the state. In contrast, Charles B. Anderson, a former county executive, managed to stage a comeback by handily winning nomination to the county council.
Mr. Freeman faces no Republican opposition in November. But in many other races chances of further upsets exist in the general election. That is good. Let all the candidates run in fear. That makes for instructive races. More important, a full debate of Harford's future options will serve its residents and the whole region well.