Gary gets our nod for Anne Arundel chief Sun endorsement: Executive's competent management, if not his personality, deserves a second term.

October 22, 1998

DEMOCRAT Janet S. Owens is listed as the opponent to Republican John G. Gary, the Anne Arundel County executive, on the Nov. 3 ballot. It might be more fitting for Mr. Gary to be listed against himself, because he is his own real opponent in this campaign.

During the past four years, Mr. Gary, a former state delegate, has demonstrated he is also a highly competent administrator. In the face of a property tax cap, Mr. Gary has been been able to maintain and, in some instances, improve county services.

He can point to major accomplishments. He oversaw a rewriting of the general development plan that seeks to protect rural areas and focus growth where infrastructure exists. Two major projects -- the Glen Burnie detention center and a new Annapolis courthouse -- were completed on time and on budget. He added more than 100 police officers. He overhauled a controversial pension system for county officials.

In spite of this record, Mr. Gary would not waltz into a second term. The reason is his propensity to pick unnecessary fights with real and imagined political enemies.

This spring, for example, he battled Superintendent Carol S. Parham and the county Board of Education over a proposed increase in the school budget. Although he made a strong case, he unnecessarily personalized the issue by accusing Dr. Parham of backing the board in exchange for renewing her contract. Mr. Gary ended up looking like a bully intent on slashing education when, in fact, he increased school spending in each of his budgets and was prepared to add more.

Ms. Owens, who has the positive personality traits Mr. Gary lacks, is benefiting from his mistakes. But although she gained government experience as head of the county departments of housing and senior services in the mid-1980s, she doesn't project the political toughness needed to negotiate with the council or interest groups.

When asked about tax or spending issues, Ms. Owens replied that she would appoint a study group. Anne Arundel cannot afford an executive who needs time to study its fiscal problems. It needs a leader who can stretch scarce tax dollars as far as possible. Mr. Gary has done this the past four years.

That challenge will be even greater in the next four. Mr. Gary possesses the superior management skills in this race, and, for that reason, gets our endorsement for re-election.

Tomorrow: Baltimore County executive

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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