Race for Harford council president

August 22, 1994

The decision of Jeffrey Wilson not to seek re-election as Harford County Council president this year created an irresistible opportunity for the two most active, and vocal, members of the council.

Democrat Theresa Pierno and Republican Joanne Parrott jumped into the race, joined by former state Sen. Arthur Helton, who lost in the Democratic primary four years ago.

The result is a keenly contested Democratic primary, with growth control and environmental activist Pierno pitted against economic development advocate Helton. Mrs. Parrott, a two-term councilwoman outspoken against the Pierno-Wilson alliance in council, is unopposed in the GOP primary.

In her first term, Mrs. Pierno has vigorously advanced legislation to manage land use, involve citizens in the development process and to protect the environment. The tree bill, rural plan, community input law and adequate public facilities measures bear her imprint.

While that activity heartened the environmental coalition that supported her in 1990, her sometimes intractable approach to issues has frustrated a large part of the business community. It's also caused friction with the county administration.

Mrs. Pierno, a homemaker with business experience, is not a one-dimensional legislator and has shown an ability, reluctantly, to reach compromise. We disagree, though, with her opposition to certain user-fees and user-taxes needed to fund expanding county needs, and with her advocacy of a full-time-pay council with added staff.

Mr. Helton, a member of the first Harford council, owns two auto parts stores and is a farmer. He criticizes the divisiveness of the current council and urges a more cooperative, though independent, relationship with the county executive. A hard-driving politician, he's head of Havre de Grace's economic development commission.

With his legislative experience and openness to the business community, he might fill the role of council moderator and consensus-builder. But the council president is really only one of seven members -- all elected countywide -- and does not speak for the entire council.

This is a close call, a difficult decision for voters. Mr. Helton is certainly a worthy candidate. But we endorse Mrs. Pierno in the ** Democratic primary for her activist record and for her valuable insight into current zoning and development issues during a time of continued change in Harford's landscape.

5% Tomorrow: Harford County Council.

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