Hirsch to lead Harford council Sun endorsement: Former Havre de Grace mayor best choice for president of legislative body.

October 28, 1998

IN MOST Maryland suburbs, the president of the County Council is chosen by his or her fellow legislators. But Harford County's system is like Baltimore City's: The head of the council is elected by voters and, as in the city, can wield great influence on the success of the executive.

This year's race for council president in Harford pits Republican Mark S. Decker, 38, a liquor store owner and first-term member of the council, against Democrat Gunther Hirsch, 72, a retired physician who was a mayor and councilman in Havre de Grace from 1983 to 1997.

Mr. Decker, the favorite, has heftier business donations and is expected to ride the coattails of fellow Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who won two-thirds of the Harford vote four years ago.

But his candidacy troubles us for two reasons: First is his 1996 probation-before-judgment sentence for battery of a female county janitor, and his attempt to have that political blemish erased from his record last year. Second, Mr. Decker seems out of touch on the issue of growth. Touting himself as a defender of "property rights," he seems indifferent to the harm overdevelopment could inflict on the business climate.

We endorse Mr. Hirsch. He has helped govern Havre de Grace in an era of economic development and waterfront revival. He seems more able than his opponent to take a long-term view, perhaps because he has seen much himself: fleeing with his family in the 1930s from persecution in Nazi Germany to HTC Palestine, learning medicine in Switzerland, migrating in 1953 to be a doctor in Pittsburgh and, finally, locating -- and getting involved -- in Havre de Grace. If residents seek a change in direction on the council, Mr. Hirsch represents that change.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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