Chairman Howard

January 14, 1992

At 29, William Howard hardly fits the profile of County Council chairman -- young, inexperienced, with no legal or legislative background. But last Monday night, the Republican councilman from Baltimore County's 6th District took the gavel and began a year-long stint as leader of the body of local lawmakers.

Howard succeeds Douglas Riley, a thoughtful and pragmatic Republican from the 4th District who like, like the new chairman, was swept into office in 1990 on a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment that set off a virtual revolution in county government. But Howard differs substantially from Riley both in style and substance.

A little-known real estate agent, Howard's defeat of Democrat Bill Evans was a surprise even to seasoned poll-watchers, and his victory was thought to be a stark measure of the level of voter discontent in the county. In large part because the core of Howard's support came from his affiliation with disgruntled taxpayer groups, he came into office a one-note council member with a marked ideological view of local government.

Running the council, and coordinating the legislative side of government, has never been an easy job. But in these difficult fiscal times -- with state budget cuts looming and the cost of services escalating -- it is an infinitely more difficult one, requiring of leadership a delicate balancing of dollars and social priorities. Decisions made in the next year will affect the quality of life in Baltimore County over the long haul, and the anti-government, anti-tax mantras that worked so well during the last election now fall short of addressing the very real fiscal dilemma.

As he assumes a role that will, at least technically, give him some control over the council's agenda, William Howard's most pressing challenge will be to abandon his zealous, personal agenda and become a more impartial consensus-builder.

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