WHEN I FIRST decided to run for public office in 1975, I did so with a single, very clear goal in mind: to make a positive difference in people's lives. That continues to be my sole motivation for seeking public office, and I would step aside in an instant if I were being challenged for office by someone I considered more likely to make that positive difference.
This is a crucial election for Baltimore County because we are at a crossroads in our history. The decisions that are made in the next few years, on everything from environmental policies to law-enforcement technologies, will literally shape our future and determine this county's quality of life for decades to come.
My 16 years' experience as an elected official dealing with the very types of issues that we now face has given me more than just a thorough knowledge of them. It has given me a true understanding of their significance in people's lives, and that will be a major asset as we strive to make the best possible decisions for our county. On the other hand, my opponent's lack of experience or detailed knowledge would prove, at best, a severe handicap in the decision-making process. The reality is, there just isn't time for on-the-job training. The office of county executive is not an entry-level position.
It is one of the ironies of this strangest-of-all-election-years that to date not a single reporter has asked me the fundamental question which you as a voter need answered before you can make an informed decision on my bid for re-election. Somehow it doesn't seem right that I should be the one to hold my own feet to the fire, but I've always been a team player, so here's the unasked question: ''Have you accomplished all the things you said you would (and which you even put into writing for our convenience) at the time of your election?''
Now that someone has finally asked, I am proud to report that all 168 of the initiatives we developed in consultation with community organizations and individual citizens countywide either have been implemented or are in the final stages of implementation. This has been no small feat. The initiatives themselves represented the best thinking of thousands of citizens, unconstrained by the very real fiscal limitations facing county government. In order to deliver on all these improvements to our quality of life, county government has had to go into four years of overdrive and be more innovative and creative than ever before in its history.
The results speak for themselves. We have taken the county's fragmented environmental efforts and assembled them into an environmental program that is viewed as a national model for its forward-looking, coordinated, pro-active approach. We have surged to a leadership role in the area of fair practices through a comprehensive program that ensures all Baltimore County citizens equal opportunity, equal access and fair treatment. We have raised the ante for drug dealers by aggressively seizing their assets, while at the same time creating community-based prevention and treatment programs that are being studied and duplicated by cities all across the nation. We have literally changed the way our citizens access governmental services through the creation of ''one-stop shopping'' at our family resource centers. Everything I've just mentioned represents but four of the 168 major accomplishments of this administration over the past four years.
It has not been business as usual. We have accomplished in four years what it normally would take a local government decades to do, if it were progressive enough to envision all of the elements. And we have done it while maintaining a stable tax rate, and despite the loss of $50 million in federal funds.
My opponent, for all of his ''wild spending'' political rhetoric, cannot disguise the fact that we've done more with less. And that's the real bottom line.
There are truly great things beginning to happen here in Baltimore County, and I want to finish the job I've started. I respectfully ask for your vote on November 6.
Mr. Rasmussen, a Democrat, is Baltimore County executive.