In search of candidate Robey's vision Voters need to know former police leader's thoughts beyond law enforcement.

January 23, 1998

WHO IS JAMES N. ROBEY? That is the question Howard County's former police chief will have to answer as local Democrats line up behind him for the race for county executive.

This we know: Mr. Robey grew up in the community of Daniels near Patapsco Valley State Park. He joined the police force in 1966, when it had 32 members, and rose through the ranks. He has earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, a master's degree in administration and management and graduated from the FBI's National Academy.

With a few exceptions, Mr. Robey performed admirably as leader of the 350-member police force, opening small stations in troubled neighborhoods and employing a "hot spot" program that has cleansed some corners of drug dealing. He was a strong advocate for his officers, even if some of them didn't always see it that way. Indeed, his successes as chief far outweighed his failings before he retired this month.

Were he seeking another job in law enforcement, these credentials and achievements would make him a highly qualified applicant. But his resume is incomplete. Mr. Robey is campaigning for a job that requires its holder to make decisions on education, land use, economic development and the county's detention center. The position he wants is responsible for appointing members to boards and commissions and overseeing public works, finance and recreation and parks.

To become a strong candidate, he must convey his vision for a county that generally enjoys a high quality of life with good

schools and a booming economy but has some fiscal challenges, including the state's largest per-capita debt. We need to hear his views on the county's budget and taxes as well as some specific examples of how local departments would operate.

Democrats could be fortunate to have someone with Mr. Robey's law-and-order background heading their ticket in an increasingly conservative county. They need a strong opponent to take on the Republican victor in the primary between County Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga and Councilman Dennis R. Schrader. First, voters need to learn more about James Robey, the civilian.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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