Evans to drop council chairmanship Arnold Republican planning 1998 run for a higher office

October 16, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Diane R. Evans, the frugal and fiercely independent chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Council, announced yesterday that she will give up her leadership position Dec. 1.

The 49-year-old Republican from Arnold, who has often fought with County Executive John G. Gary during her three years as chairwoman, said she's planning a campaign for higher office in 1998 -- perhaps challenging Gary or running for state senator or delegate.

"Everything is very much on the table in terms of what I'm going to run for," Evans said. "All my options are open. But I felt this decision to step down had to be handled first."

The change in leadership could have a major impact on the Republican-majority but independent-minded council, depending on whether her replacement is loyal to Gary or Evans.

The leading candidates to replace Evans are both Republicans: William C. Mulford II, a lawyer who represents Annapolis and has close ties to Gary, and Bert L. Rice, a retired Army colonel, who represents Odenton and has been a supporter of Evans.

Depending on who is elected during the council's first meeting in December, the council could either forge a closer relationship with the county executive or maintain its sometimes oppositional stance, according to political insiders.

"I would certainly be interested in the chairmanship," Mulford said. "It would be an honor and a privilege. Now, whether the others on the council would support me in that, I don't know."

Rice could not be reached for comment.

Evans, a former child-support collector for the county courts, has represented the 5th District north of Annapolis since 1990 and is barred by county term-limit laws from remaining on the council after 1998.

Although she is relinquishing her chairman's position, she will remain in office through the end of next year and promises to be more vocal than ever.

During her three years as chairwoman, Evans played a major role in hiring and supporting a county auditor, Teresa Sutherland, who has launched aggressive and sometimes controversial investigations into the administration's spending practices.

Evans has also made a reputation as a fiscal conservative and an environmentalist. The county executive has refused to meet with her since February, because she talked to the news media about Gary's efforts to rein in an audit he thought was being mishandled.

Evans cut back on perks for County Council members, saying the government shouldn't pay for elaborate meals.

And she fought a successful administration proposal to create special taxation districts, saying they appear to help developers more than homebuyers.

"She and the county executive have not seen eye to eye on every issue," said Gary spokeswoman Lisa Ritter. "But you should expect that, because they are in different branches of government."

The seven-member council elects a chairman for a one-year term every December. Last November, supporters of Gary worked behind-the-scenes in an attempt to remove Evans and replace her with Mulford.

Mulford won the support of Republicans John J. Klocko III and Democrat Thomas W. Redmond for the chairmanship. That alliance asked for the support of Rice and Democrat George F. Bachman, but both turned Mulford down.

Mulford's alliance then offered the chairmanship to Rice, who again turned them down in favor of his ally, Evans.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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