Westminster mayor to seek higher office Brown sets sights on commissioner

November 04, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown announced yesterday that he will run for Carroll commissioner in the 1994 election.

At an afternoon press conference at City Hall, Mr. Brown, a

Republican and frequent critic of the current commissioners, said his experience with the city has prepared him for county office.

"My record is one of recognizing public needs and implementing fiscally responsible solutions to meet those needs," he said.

All three commissioner seats will be open in 1994.

Mr. Brown, in his second term as mayor of the county's largest municipality, is the first challenger to announce for the race. Incumbents Donald I. Dell, a Republican, and Elmer C. Lippy, a Democrat, have said they will run again.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, a Republican, has said she is considering running for one of three 5th District delegate seats. She was in Annapolis yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Brown said he announced his decision early in order to have time to organize a campaign while still concentrating on his mayoral duties. He does not have to give up his seat to run.

Two first-term City Council members -- Republican Stephen R. Chapin and Democrat Rebecca Orenstein -- said yesterday that they are considering running for commissioner.

"I am considering, but I think it's too early for me [to decide]," Mr. Chapin said.

He added that he resigned his job Monday as sales manager for Centaur Press, the commercial printing division of Landmark Community Newspapers of Maryland Inc., which publishes the Carroll County Times. The job could be considered a conflict of interest if he were elected commissioner, he said.

Ms. Orenstein said she wants to talk to family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday before making a decision.

"People are talking to me about it and asking me to run," she said.

Mr. Brown, 49, said he also considered running for a delegate seat, but decided in September that there were many issues he wanted to deal with on the county level.

The "absolute deciding factor" was the forest conservation law passed by the commissioners last November, he said. Mr. Brown said commissioners allowed developers, who opposed the law, too much say in the process.

The mayor also criticized the board for its recent decision to reconsider and possibly amend the ordinance next month in a way he believes would be even more favorable to developers. The law is meant to preserve Carroll's forests.

Mr. Lippy said yesterday the commissioners listened to environmentalists when writing the ordinance and did not give the developers what they really wanted. The developers wanted the county to adopt a state version of the forest conservation law, which was seen as less stringent and less costly to follow. The county wrote its own law.

Mr. Dell said yesterday that all parties affected by a county law should be involved in drafting it.

Battle over trash

Mayor Brown also has battled with commissioners about whether Carroll should have countywide trash collection and mandatory recycling. Countywide trash collection would be cheaper for residents and mandatory recycling would save landfill space, he said.

The commissioners have waffled on solid waste, Mr. Brown said.

"This issue requires leadership that can make a decision," he said. "I think the commissioners could have done a much better job of handling it."

The county is studying how to dispose of trash without building more landfills. Officials are considering incineration or composting.

Mr. Brown, who supports composting county trash, said modular composting plants could be built at the Northern and Hoods Mill landfills. He advocates a process used by Bedminster Bioconversion Corp. of Cherry Hill, N.J.

"This process works. I've seen nothing better," he said.

A citizens committee studying incineration and composting is scheduled to report to the commissioners next spring.

Improving county police protection and building schools also are important county issues, Mayor Brown said.

He said he advocates selling more general-obligation bonds to build schools to relieve crowding. Portable classrooms have become a fixture at many elementary schools, he said.

'Behind the curve'

The county should be buying land for future school sites, he said.

"We've gotten far behind the curve," he added.

The county needs more police officers so residents who live in outlying parts of the county can receive assistance quicker, Mr. Brown said. The county should consider hiring officers to work out of existing town police offices, he said. Those officers could respond to calls outside town limits.

But Mr. Brown said he does not support a county police force to replace the state police Resident Trooper program.

Mr. Brown, former owner of Benjamin's Fine Candies store, was elected mayor in 1989. He defeated 15-year incumbent LeRoy L. Conaway by 12 votes -- 242 to 230. Mr. Brown had been chairman of the city Board of Zoning Appeals from 1985 to 1989.

Re-elected in May

He ran unopposed for a second term in May and received 524 of the 729 votes cast for mayor.

He and his wife of 20 years, Margaret, have two children -- Jess, 15, and Marcie, 10.

Mr. Dell and Mr. Lippy said they consider Mayor Brown a friend and complimented his dedication to public service.

"He would serve the people of Carroll County well if he's elected," Mr. Lippy said. "I'm glad he's on board. I think he will add to the debate."

Mr. Dell said, "I really have a lot of admiration for him. I think he's a great humanitarian. Even though we've disagreed on issues, we're not enemies."

If Mr. Brown is elected, Council President Kenneth A. Yowan would succeed him as mayor.

Mr. Yowan, a Republican, wished the mayor luck yesterday, but said he would not campaign for any candidate.

"He'll give the other candidates a battle," Mr. Yowan predicted.

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