Chairman for life

Anne Arundel: Council's Klosterman should honor commitment to pass the gavel.

November 18, 1999

QUICK: Name the Arundel County Council chairman. If you're sweating like George W. Bush during a pop quiz on foreign leaders, calm down. The answer is more important to politicians than to county residents.

John and Jane Public may know issues important to them but probably don't care a lick that the chairman is Daniel E. Klosterman Jr.

But the title is a big deal for council members because the chairman runs meetings, works with the county executive and deals with department heads.

The clamor for the job is even more evident this year because County Council meetings soon will appear on cable television. Add this medium to the ribbon-cuttings and other photo opportunities and the council leader can look awfully powerful.

Still, does that really matter to citizens or, more precisely, voters? Recall that Diane Evans served three years as chairwoman but lost a primary election for county executive to underdog Janet S. Owens in 1998.

A year later, Mr. Klosterman is sinking his nails into the chairmanship. He is backpedaling from a commitment to rotate the position among three fellow Democrats during the election cycle. The unwritten, party-line pact last year called for Vice Chairwoman Pamela G. Beidle to assume the chair Dec. 6. Now, it appears Mr. Klosterman wants to be chairman for life, or at least another year.

He wants the council to re-elect him. He needs time, he says, to accomplish more, but gaining political mileage could be another motive.

Whatever the reason, commitment and fair play are casualties.

Rotating chairmanships emerged in Anne Arundel and elsewhere because majority party members saw this as a practical way to share power equitably among friends. Unless someone is uniquely qualified, this seems a good practice.

Mr. Klosterman ought to realize that. He also should realize two other things: He can serve effectively without the chairmanship. Voters favor politicians who honor their commitments.

Pub Date: 11/18/99

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