Sophocleus Urges At-large Council Chief

July 25, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Former County Council member Theodore J. Sophocleus wants the council to have a full-time chairman elected by the entire county.

Sophocleus, who ran for county executive last year, made his proposal to the county Charter Revision Commission on Tuesday night. The hearing was the third of four the commission is conducting to ask residents how they think council district boundaries should be redrawn, based on changes in population recorded in the 1990 U.S. Census.

The final hearing is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at Southern High School in Harwood. Commission Chairman Robert D. Agee said groups submitting redistricting plans should do so before the hearing. The county Republican Central Committee and the Black Political Forum will presentplans at the hearing, members said.

The at-large chairman proposed by Sophocleus would be part of a nine-member council, up from seven. Sophocleus also proposed creating an eighth council district; the council has seven districts now, each represented by a single council member.

The chairman would gather information for other council members and conduct briefings on issues. He or she would represent the council at functions and would vote only in case of a tie.

The council now elects its own chairman, a part-time position.

Sophocleussaid the position is needed to reduce the workload on council members, who have difficulty balancing careers and families with council duties.

"It's not a part-time job," he said. "I averaged 50 to 70 hours a week on council work."

Sophocleus was the first council member, past or present, to testify before the commission. He didn't say whether he would be interested in the chairman's job.

Beth Slikker, an aide to Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, agreed council members' workload has been increasing. "The more crowded a group of people you have in a district, the more problems you have," she said.

But Slikker, who said she wasn't speaking for Lamb, offered no solutions.

Bob McMurtrie, president of the Greater Severn Improvement Association, told the commission that Severn residents want their community in one district. It is now divided between three council districts.

McMurtrie said he polled the heads of each community association in Severn and all said they wanted the community in one district. McMurtrie said the 22,000-member community wants its own council member, but Agee and other commission members told him the community istoo small. If the county is divided into seven council districts, each district would include about 61,000 people.

At least two groupswill present redistricting plans at the Aug. 6 hearing. Laura Green Treffer, chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee, said Republicans will recommend making only minor shifts in boundaries.

The party hopes to protect council members Diane R. Evans of Severna Park and Carl "Dutch" Holland of Pasadena, the first Republicans elected to the council in 20 years.

The Black Political Forum will recommend creating a County Council district in the Annapolis area, forum member Mary Sellman Jackson said. Forum members say the new district would be about one-third black and would increase black voting power. About 12 percent of county residents are black.

Agee said he didn't know if the county Democratic Central Committee isworking on a redistricting plan, and members of the committee couldn't be reached yesterday.

Agee said the commission wants to know people's views on where district boundaries should be, how many councilmembers there should be and whether the positions should be full or part time, whether the chairman should be elected at-large and whether council members and the county executive should be elected all at once or in staggered terms.

The commission will develop proposals for a public hearing in September, then send a final proposal to the council.

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