GOP's Gouge ready to return to county politics Former commissioner running again after four-year hiatus

Campaign 1998

October 21, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Julia Walsh Gouge has played nearly all the parts on the county's political stage.

She made her debut as a town councilwoman in Hampstead, moved on to become mayor there and then stepped into the county commissioner role.

After a four-year hiatus, Gouge says she's ready to return to the drama of county politics.

Based on the results of the primary election, it appears she has a receptive audience.

Gouge emerged as the top vote-getter in a crowded field of 14 candidates on the Republican ballot. Unlike other candidates who had pockets of regional support, Gouge appealed to voters throughout the county. She was the choice for commissioner in 37 of the county's 43 precincts.

Political observers attributed Gouge's first-place finish to strong name recognition.

A seventh-generation Carroll countian, Gouge said she decided to re-enter the political arena after supporters encouraged her to seek one of the three seats on the Board of County Commissioners.

"I've lived here all my life," said Gouge, who began her political career in 1979 with her election to the Hampstead Town Council.

"We're changing, but I want to make sure the changes are ones that we can all live with 20 to 30 years down the road," she said about the fast-growing county.

"It's important to me that this county stays a beautiful county for generations to come, and I think we can be better," she said.

Gouge's political career includes some significant firsts -- first female mayor in Carroll, first female Carroll County commissioner and first Republican female president of the Maryland Association of Counties.

Gouge served two terms as a county commissioner before joining Republican gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard as his running mate for lieutenant governor in 1994.

She then worked on a local cable show, "A Closer Look With Julia Gouge," in which she interviewed county and state elected officials. She said the experience allowed her to maintain her political contacts and kept her abreast of the issues.

Gouge said alleviating traffic congestion, boosting economic development and working more closely with the county's municipal leaders would be among her top priorities as commissioner.

"Part of our problem is that 50 percent of the people go outside the county to work," she said. "I'd like to find out where these people are working and target those industries for Carroll County."

Gouge pledged to be a more visible county commissioner -- within the county and beyond its borders. If elected, she plans to resume her weekly visits to Annapolis during the General Assembly session and revive her practice of holding public meetings throughout the county.

"We would go over all the bills that affected the towns," Gouge said of her meetings with local legislators. "It gave you a handle on what was happening at the state level.

"If you stay up here in Carroll County all by yourself as an island, you don't know any of these things," she said.

Gouge said that during her previous terms as a commissioner, the contacts she established with state and federal officials made her a more effective advocate for the county.

"The current county commissioners have not had a close working relationship with the delegation to Annapolis," she said.

She said her efforts resulted in money for Runnymede Elementary and Oklahoma Road Middle schools and federal funding for the expansion of the Jack B. Poage Carroll County Regional Airport north of Westminster.

Gouge said that "being able to lobby for money and bring it home for Carroll County" sets her apart from the six other commissioner candidates.

During her years as a commissioner, Gouge often clashed with school board members over spending issues, including the salaries of administrators. She supports performance audits of the school system and a greater emphasis on the Carroll County Career and Technology Center.

"I think we have too many supervisors," Gouge said. "We're spending a tremendous amount of money on education, but it's not going to where kids are getting it every day."

Julia Walsh Gouge

Age: 58

Residence: Hampstead

Family: Married to Jesse Gouge; four children; five grandchildren; and parent to four foster children

Occupation: Realtor from 1975 to 1986; direct sales; cable talk show host from 1995 to 1998

Education: North Carroll High School; attended Carroll Community College and University of Maryland, College Park

Political background: Hampstead Town Council, 1979-1983; Hampstead mayor, 1983-1986; two terms as county commissioner, 1986-1994

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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