The "It's gonna be Close," slogan that county executive hopeful Geoffrey R.
Close used in his race rang true to its pun last week.
He was defeated by a 775-vote margin by Democratic opponent Eileen M.
Harford's first female county executive-elect said she's planning to forge ahead with a good working relationship with the Republican majority-held council and with a project to get a high-tech campus and business park started in the county.
She said she also wants to begin work on the county's public water and sewer needs.
Rehrmann became one of a handful of Democrats elected to county office by voters Tuesday when she defeated Close in an election that hinged on absentee ballots. Rehrmann's victory was not certain until Thursday night when the Board of Elections counted 1,246 absentee ballots.
Rehrmann received 23,028 votes from all 44 precincts, or 49.6 percent.
Close received 22,253 votes, or about 48 percent of the vote.
Close did not concede until after the absentee ballots were counted.
"We waged a hard issues-driven campaign against an opponent who marshaled tremendous financial resources both inside and outside the county," said Close in his concession statement. "To those who said 'It's not going to be close,' I think we proved that it could indeed be close. We proved that there is a Republican party in this county -- that its voice will be heard and must be listened to."
Rehrmann, who defeated Barbara A. Risacher in the primary election by a 2-to-1 landslide margin, said, "Yes, we were surprised by how close the race was. We had done polling and it didn't indicate it would be so close."
Rehrmann, a two-term House of Delegates member from District 34 and a veteran campaigner, said she was baffled by the numbers. Rehrmann won her biggest vote margins in the Perryman precinct, two Aberdeen precincts, and a Havre de Grace precinct. Close, a former mayor of Bel Air, won all Bel Air precincts.
Rehrmann attributed the narrow victory to a higher than expected voter turnout.
Michael Davall, chairman of the Harford Republican Central Committee, said, "With the money she had, she should have been able to run a campaign to ensure a 5- to 10-point victory, and it was less than 1 percentage point. I think the Gravel Hill rubble fill issue was a major driver overall. It hurt Hooper, Fielder, Hatem and Cox, and took a lot of votes away from Rehrmann."
County Council members J. Robert Hooper, D-District D, and G. Edward Fielder, D-District E, lost their council seats to Republicans in Tuesday's election. District E Councilman Frederick J. Hatem, a Democrat, lost his bid for council president to Republican Jeffrey Wilson. Delegate William H.
Cox Jr., D-District 34, lost his bid for a fifth term. (See related stories, Pages 8-9.) Because so many veteran council members were defeated, Rehrmann, 45, of Bel Air, will find herself working with a Republican-dominated council.
"My first priority is going to be establishing a good relationship with the County Council and the state delegation," said Rehrmann.
"I also want to establish a good working relationship with the school superintendent. As far as projects are concerned, my No. 1 priority will be bringing new industry to Harford County. I want to move the HEAT project forward."
HEAT is the acronym for the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center, a combination business park and education center to be developed in Aberdeen on a 118-acre parcel of state land at Route 22 and Interstate 95.
Rehrmann said one of her first priorities will be to look at water and sewer service in the county and to develop a five-year fiscal plan. The five-year plan will be the guide for the county, just as Freeman's 10-year plans have been.
Rehrmann said she and the delegation will seek state permission to assess impact fees to help finance county growth. The state Court of Appeals in Annapolis ruled last year in a Montgomery County case that an impact fee was a tax the county was not authorized to charge.
Rehrmann, who will be sworn in Dec. 3, has said she advocates charging developers a $2,000 per-unit impact fee.
She said future action depends on what she finds out during the transition between her administration and the administration of outgoing County Executive Habern W. Freeman.
Rehrmann's transition team will be headed by her campaign manager George Harrison, a Bel Air businessman. She said she had not chosen the other members of the transition team and would not speculate on which county departments might see new chiefs.