Rather than engage in a bruising political tussle, Carroll County's new board of commissioners parceled out titles and assignments in self-described "gentlemanly" fashion, based on the number of votes in the general election. As a result, the three commissioners -- W. Benjamin Brown, Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates -- expeditiously disposed of their organizational chores without resorting to a bare-knuckles brawl the likes of which soured relations on the last board.
Four years ago, Mr. Dell decided that rather than automatically name the incumbent as board president as was standard practice, the top vote-getter should be designated president. Mr. Dell, by the way, was top vote-getter when he made that suggestion. In an ironic twist, this time Mr. Dell received the fewest votes of the three. Now, he's board secretary.
Mr. Yates, a political neophyte who won the most votes even though he has never held elective office, is the new president. He will run the commissioners' meetings and have the top signature on official documents.
In terms of power, the vote of each commissioner in Carroll is equal. However, the past board placed undue weight on symbolic titles. It is encouraging this board seems to be downplaying them. That's not to suggest the early amicable relations will long continue. Mr. Dell and Mr. Brown, the board's vice-chairman, have been forceful figures in county politics. As for Mr. Yates, it is difficult to project how he will perform in office.
As the lone returning incumbent, Mr. Dell understands the operations of county government and knows the various department heads. He can use his knowledge and relationships to his advantage while Mr. Brown gets up to speed. If Mr. Brown's past performance as mayor of Westminster is an indication, he will make his ideas and presence felt fairly quickly.
The open question is whether Mr. Yates can use his electoral mandate as top vote-getter to exert influence. He already has garnered the plum assignment on the planning commission in a suburbanizing county where land-use issues are big. He campaigned on a platform of controlling growth and is in a position to use his commission role to advance his agenda.
Given the strong personalities among these commissioners, we suspect that politics in Carroll County won't remain as tranquil as they were during the first week of business.