Republican Charles I. Ecker, who took a $30,000 gamble when he lent his campaign money for a last-minute advertising blitz, saw it pay off yesterday when a tally of absentee ballots gave him a victory over incumbent Howard County Executive Elizabeth Bobo.
Mr. Ecker, who prevailed by 450 votes, said he made the loan at 8 percent interest because he needed to buy full-page newspaper ads and circulars and had faith in his chances of winning a race in which he was a decided underdog.
"It shows you how confident I was," said Mr. Ecker, who also received a late contribution of $6,000 from a home builders political action committee. "I thought I would win, although I think nobody did but me and a few close supporters."
Nearly 50 Democrats and Republicans stood elbow to elbow for 90 minutes or more at the county elections board in Ellicott City yesterday while 1,551 absentee ballots were counted.
The Republicans gave a cheer when officials announced the tally of 873 for Mr. Ecker and 667 for Ms. Bobo, expanding the Republican candidate's election night margin of 244 votes.
Mr. Ecker, a retired deputy superintendent of schools, embraced his wife, Peggy, and told members of the news media at his Columbia headquarters that "the people want to be heard. My door will be open."
Ms. Bobo, 46, who was suffering her first election defeat, held 88TC news conference near her Columbia town house to acknowledge that she was "more than a little bit surprised" by the outcome of her race.
The executive, who got her start as a civic activist and went on to serve nine years on the County Council, said she had no plans but wanted to "continue some kind of work that will have a positive impact on the community."
The morning after Election Day, as he sat in the comfortably furnished living room of his rancher in the Beaverbrook neighborhood outside Columbia, Mr. Ecker outlined plans for his administration.
"We will be a lean, trim, friendly, open government that is fiscally responsible," said Mr. Ecker, 61. "We also will be a government that plans for the future and will reunite the county."
One of his first actions, he said, will be to draft "a simpler, more workable" bill designed to delay growth where roads and schools are overcrowded. A complex and stringent adequate-facilities bill proposed by Ms. Bobo is pending before the County Council.
He said that he was committed to extending the law limiting the county to 2,000 new housing permits a year if his version of adequate-facilities legislation is not passed in time. The law is scheduled to be phased out March 30.
Mr. Ecker added that imposing impact fees on new development to help the county pay for roads and schools, as several other Maryland jurisdictions have done, is an option to be considered.
"Developers have to pay for some of the new infrastructure, but they are not responsible for past sins," he said. "The county has been negligent in keeping up with the roads and needs a greater commitment to pay for capital improvements."
Other priorities, Mr. Ecker said, will be to "speed up" the county's recycling program and draft plans to address solid waste and economic development. He intends to further study a proposal he floated during the campaign for a new reservoir in the western end of the county.
"If the ground water ever gets contaminated, we will have a source for our water," he said.
Mr. Ecker said he will strive to make his administration accessible. He said he plans to open the county government to be available for citizens "most Saturday mornings."
Taking a cue from the school system, Mr. Ecker said he will appoint a citizens advisory committee to use as a sounding board for legislation and changes he may consider, as well as to keep him abreast of community and business concerns.
The Bobo administration came under criticism from the Economic Forum, an alliance of business and other interests, for not sharing its legislative proposals until they were already drafted.
Of particular concern, Mr. Ecker said, is "the public perception of the police that some community people have. It bothers me. We need to have community members sit down with the chief and several officers to discuss the concerns, and we need more training for our officers."
He said he will soon set up a transition team to examine the organization of the county government, and is considering scrapping the recently created Department of General Services that oversees communications and building maintenance.
Mr. Ecker said he would "not make wholesale changes overnight" in the executive's appointed staff.
"A lot of them will stay on," Mr. Ecker said, adding that the only official he will fire at this point is Uri P. Avin, the planning director. "He may be a brilliant planner, but he is not a people person. He will go."
Because of the falloff in tax revenue, he said he would institute a hiring freeze and fill key vacancies by transfers from within. He also intends to closely scrutinize the next education budget and urge cuts in the school system's administration, while he reduces the size of the county work force through attrition.
He said he supports a 5 percent cap on annual property assessment increases proposed by Republican Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, because "it amounts to truth in taxes. If the government wants the additional money, it will have to go to the public to justify raising the property tax."
Mr. Ecker said he will also require fiscal notes on all pieces of major legislation "so the public knows the cost up front."
The race for Howard County executive was decided yesterday in the tally of absentee ballots. The results are:
Charles I. Ecker 26,510
Elizabeth Bobo 26,060