The three Democrats on the five-member Howard County Council appear ready to back Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a political science professor who will enter his third term, as the council's next chairman.
Mr. Gray, a Democrat who represents East Columbia's 3rd District, says he is interested in the post. The current chairman, Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, does not appear to have the votes to hold onto the job.
She and Mr. Gray agree that it is important to keep the council chairmanship in Democratic hands, with a newly elected Republican executive and a new Republican on the council.
Ms. Pendergrass said yesterday that she has "mixed feelings" about stepping down after two years, but added that "it is important to have a Democrat in the position because we have a majority on the council and we must deal with a Republican county executive [Charles I. Ecker]."
"Obviously, it is extremely important for the council to fashion its own agenda, and I have the breadth of experience for the job," Mr. Gray said. The council must scrutinize Mr. Ecker's programs and "develop a Democratic alternative on different issues," he said.
The council is to vote on a new chairman Dec. 3.
Mr. Gray, who was council chairman from 1985 to 1987, has the support of Councilman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th.
Ms. Pendergrass said she could "conceivably support Vernon for sure, but I won't sit down to consider it at least until Monday."
Meanwhile, newly elected Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said he will nominate Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, who was elected to a second term on the council, for the chairmanship. But if that does not work out, Mr. Drown said, "I could support either Paul or Vernon."
"It is time for some fresh ideas on the council," he said of his intention to nominate Mr. Feaga. "People want to look at different ideas."
Mr. Feaga said he "would like the chairmanship, but I don't think it is very probable."
During the two years of Ms. Pendergrass' tenure, the council adopted a new General Plan -- a blueprint to guide growth for the next 20 years -- as well as an 18-month growth cap limiting building permits and legislation setting environmental controls.
"I expect we will lose a lot of ground during the next four years," Ms. Pendergrass warned. "I expect there will be an attempt to reopen the General Plan and gut the greenbelt [an area in midcounty proposed for open space and low-density development]. I am also concerned about losing the momentum on adopting an adequate [public] facilities act."